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A Game of Fox and Squirrels: 05/16/20
A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese is a middle grade urban fantasy set in rural Oregon. Samantha and older sister Caitlin have moved here from Los Angeles to stay with their aunts.
Sam is desperate to go home, back to a time before her father's anger got out of control, leaving Caitlin with a broken arm, and them in a different state. Caitlin, meanwhile, is all smiles and cheer, apparently perfectly happy to embrace her new life in Oregon.
On the day they arrive, Aunt Vicky gives Sam a card came, "Fox and Squirrels." Instructions (more or less) are included between chapters. They are the first clue into how Sam has learned to survive in an abusive home.
But the game is also an invitation to see the magic (and danger) lurking in the nearby forest. Sam is met by three squirrels who say they work for the fox. If she can win a real world version of the card game, she will find a way for her sister and herself to go home.
Even without Sam's urban fantasy adventure, A Game of Fox and Squirrels sits on the road narrative spectrum. Where though, is different depending on perspective. If taken as a contemporary realistic fiction with fantasy elements as a means for Sam to work through her trauma, it's the tale of siblings (CC) traveling to a rural place (33) via an offroad route (66).
But I argue that Caitlin's early assimilation with her new life removes her from being counted as a traveler. Sam's actions until the last chapter are hers and hers alone, making her an orphan traveler (FF) despite her residing with her sister and aunts.
The destination, then, isn't where Caitlin and Sam arrive to at the start of the novel. Instead, it's where Sam goes on her own as she tries to earn a way home for her and her sister. Sam's adventures are almost entirely within the woods, or in terms of the road narrative spectrum, the wildlands (99).
The route Sam takes over those first nights is a confusing one. It's made more dangerous by the presence of the fox. During the climax, a torrential rain storm makes the landscape all the more dangerous. The very real danger combined with the fox's trickery / abusive manipulation makes the route the maze (CC).
From Sam's point of view, A Game of Fox and Squirrels is the story of an orphan traveler going through the wildlands via a maze like route. (FF99CC).