'Harrowing but tender, lightly experimental in form, Wolf in White Van erects an ingenious interface between harsh reality and harsher fantasy to probe the inner workings of morality, causation and choice. It’s also an unsparing but empathetic portrayal of living with a stigmatic physical disability.'
Brian Howe, Indy Week
“Possibly the best novel of the year.”
'Right up to its tense closing scene, Wolf in White Van is a quietly bracing novel about the power — but also the isolation — of an overactive imagination. Without becoming sentimental or excessively bleak, Darnielle has created an empathetic character study: sustained eye contact with a person from whom most would avert their glance.'
Lindsay Zoladz, Bookforum
'[A] powerful novel … Darnielle layers invisible causation, or mechanisms of denial, or signs of an unstable personality, into the narrative with enviable subtlety … An impressive achievement.'
Sam Costello, Full Stop
'One of the most intense reads of the year … surreal, emotionally explosive, and often weirdly funny in ways you wouldn’t expect … What makes one person wander into a fantasy world and then wander back out again, unscathed, while another is disfigured by it for life? The way that Darnielle forces you to think about these issues, in a variety of situations, will give you chills. Nothing is more terrifying, and more honest, than a story that acknowledges that there is no bright line between guilt and innocence.'
Annalee Newitz, io9
'With Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle may have taken a break from creating music, but he is still precise in the use of his literary gifts. His portrayal of Sean’s inner life, haunted by guilt and plagued by long-simmering aggression hits few false notes.'
'John Darnielle is a great songwriter, tipping light toward every kind of human suffering, and his powers are on full display in Wolf in White Van. The prose lives like Sean’s imagination: a breathing, glowing thing. In Darnielle’s novel, as in his songs, the monstrously true and unbelievably beautiful press up against one another. Together, they begin to dance.'
Carmen Maria Machado, NPR.org
'Even if you’ve never sampled a local micro-brew (in a Mason jar, of course) while listening to the Mountain Goats in Williamsburg, even, in fact, if you’ve never heard of Darnielle, Wolf in White Van will provoke you, and interest you, and move you.'
Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly
'The best rock novel of the year.'
'An incredible feat for a debut novelist.'
The AV Club
'This puzzle-like book, riddled with pulp allusions, proves Darnielle’s narrative skill.'
Time Out New York
“A tremendous literary achievement.”
Cristina Fries, Zyzzyva
'John Darnielle’s novel moves through the mind like a dark-windowed car through a sleepy neighborhood, quiet, mysterious, menacing, taking you places you will never, never get out of your head.'
Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
‘I can’t remember the last time I so willingly followed a narrator into a frame of mind this splintered. (It helps that he’s mostly wry about it.) As you read you waver between suspicions that the world itself is ill-made, and concern that the fundamental fault lies within our very brains. As for the writing, I'd go for anything else Darnielle writes like a shot’
Helen Oyeyemi, author of Boy, Snow, Bird
'I loved everything about this book. Blisteringly authentic — like a garage-made bomb on a slow-burning fuse, or like Darnielle set out to adapt an old Iron Maiden T-shirt as a literary novel and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.'
Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible and You
'Wolf in White Van is a testament to the ways in which all of us use imagination to survive, and the ways in which that same imagination can take over our lives until there’s little else left. It brings us inside both the reality and the fantasy of day-to-day life in the way that only John Darnielle can. Read this book. You’ll never hold another one like it.'
Joseph Fink, creator of Welcome to Night Vale
‘With delicacy, empathy and control, John Darnielle has crafted an indelible novel, a hymn for those who inhabit lonely universes, and a harbour for anyone who has sought refuge in a reality other than their own.’
Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers
'Rich and sensitive debut novel … about outsiders and imaginary worlds.' Best of 2014
New Zealand Listener
‘Eerie, poetic, at times genuinely terrifying, Wolf in White Van is a meditation both on the saving powers of pop culture, and the fatal traps our escape routes can become. John Darnielle’s unforgettable first novel is like nothing else I’ve read.’
Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies
‘Raw, unflinching and exquisite. John Darnielle adds “novelist” to the long list of artistic undertakings at which he happens to be absolutely brilliant.’
Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn
'Wolf in White Van is beautiful, enigmatic, and sad, and like every other brilliant thing John Darnielle has ever done, it seems to come from some fully imagined universe, of which we only get to see this haunting, enticing sliver. I utterly love it.’
J. Robert Lennon, author of Familiar and See You in Paradise