Kate Ormand takes a unique twist in The Wanderers, following a group of nomad shapeshifters traveling under the guise of a circus. Flo has been part of the circus ever since she was young, but has always thought of what the world would be like if she were not a part of the circus. When she accidentally reveals what the circus really is publicly, shapeshifter hunters attack and take away everything she has ever known.
There aren't a lot of shapeshifter books out there – all the ones I've come across so far typically have characters that shift into wolves (technically werewolves are like shapeshifters. They're interchangeable). The Wanderers, on the other hand, don't really have wolves (I don't think there are any here). Ormand takes the concept and expand the idea of shapeshifter to include all kinds of animals – bears, seals, tigers, horses, etc. It's a breather to have all kinds of animals instead of the usual furry four legged ones. Have I mentioned there's a shapeshifting parrot? Uber-cool.
Flo (I started imagining her as that Progressive chick) has elements of a good character – she's realistic and brave, even though she's watching her back constantly for hunters. She has a constant inner battle with a desire and curiosity to see the world outside of the circus, but has no clue if she wants to take that opportunity when she's old enough to be offered a life outside. But Flo is a bit of a mystery to me, and so are most of the shifters.
The Wanderers feels more like a discovery book – no one aside from the "elders" know how the circus originated in the first place. Flo and the other shifters seem as though they've been there all their lives – they all have a similar past and their way to the circus are all similar. The book becomes more of a survival book after the attack and the remaining shifters work together (albeit the tolerable tension some have towards Flo) to escape the clutches of the hunters going after them. In the midst of it all, Flo discovers a disturbing plot and sets about breaking it before other shifters get hurt as well.
Ormand pulls off an ending similar to Bruchac's in Killer of Enemies – there's a solid ending, but it's very open-ended and lots of things could potentially happen. The ending to The Wanderers feels very fitting with the story considering the title and the concept. Even though I'm not a huge fan of this book, Ormand has certainly left a mark with just the entire idea.