Hunter by Eliza Lentzski is a worthy and heart-felt companion piece to the original “Winter Jacket” story. Here Lentzski takes us back through those early moments of Elle and Hunter’s relationship, but this time through the perspective of Hunter Dyson. Lentzski usually doesn’t revisit her stories from another character’s point of view. However, I am very happy she did for this series. To see Hunter’s thoughts as she falls for Elle and also her struggles with the issues that arise in her world, especially her budding sexuality, we are able to understand that how Hunter is perceived through Elle’s love isn’t all that make Hunter who she is.
Hunter Dyson is entering the Spring semester of her junior year of college. As a nursing major, she has some big decisions to make, particularly what her specialty field is going to be. Everyone keeps nagging her about it, from her mother to her advisor. In addition, she has realized she’s attracted to women. As she progresses through the semester, Hunter’s time is split between studying for her nurse’s exam, figuring out her sexuality, and trying to pass her last general education class – Writing Seminar with Professor Elle Graft. Hunter’s certain she can survive the class. She just has to stay focused on her assignments, not her professor’s legs.
As a prequel to “Winter Jacket,” we are introduced to the same characters. However, since we are entering into Hunter’s life more, we are privileged to see her activities and thoughts broadened beyond Elle. Hunter has her nursing study group, her family, and a bitter old woman, Henrietta, who has a sweet disposition once you get to know her. It’s wonderful seeing all the familiar faces, as well as getting to know new ones. But what I love more about this story is Elle and Hunter are granted an extended character development to their already established personalities. These added nuances are wonderful to discover and yet still stay faithful to their original characteristics.
In “Winter Jacket,” Hunter is perceived as being very mature, confident, and bold. This is how she is seen through Elle’s view point. She shows those same qualities outside of Ell’s per view, but it isn’t as predominant as Elle would have believed. In this story, Lentzski pulls back the curtain and we see the Hunter behind the personae. She is a twenty-year-old college student. She’s dealing with the pressures of school, parents who either are too involved or not involved at all, and friends that are more colleague than confidante. She has also realized she is a lesbian. She’s scared and excited by this at the same time. And amidst all the chaos of her world, she is trying her best to understand what it means to be a lesbian and how it will impact her life moving forward.
The personae of Elle is altered because we are now seeing her has Hunter sees her, and I love the additions Lentzski made to Elle’s character because of the way Hunter perceives her. Hunter sees her as sophisticated, knowledgeable, beautiful, and very passionate about her teaching (a trait I felt was lost a little bit in “Winter Jacket” due to Elle’s focus being on Hunter). She also sees Elle as untouchable.
Elle was developed thoroughly in the first novel, so now we get to see her in a new capacity: she is now known as the first woman Hunter has ever been attracted to. And while that is exciting it is also frightening. Hunter is still figuring herself out, so Lentzski is smart to have her question her feelings and explore what they mean as her time with Elle, as well as Hunter’s attraction to her, increases throughout the story. It is important to the growth of both characters for Hunter and Elle to go through this journey viewed from this side of the relationship. It’s important for Hunter’s character so there’s no doubt in her mind Elle is the woman for her. And it’s important to Elle’s character because even though we know a lot about her, she becomes even more developed and enriched through the eyes of the woman who loves her.
The Writing Style
Great first-person narrative. I love how it starts before the beginning of the Spring Semester when Elle and Hunter first meet. It really allows us to get a good sense of who Hunter is before she falls in love. Like most twenty-year-olds in college, she has her dilemmas and personal conflicts. Watching her progress through this moment in her life is fun to read and reminds us all that we were at that age once when we were just trying to figure it all out.
I loved finding out more about Hunter, and not just who she was behind the personae placed upon her by Elle. Her life may not seem very exciting, but knowing what she is has to look forward to, I just couldn’t help but feel empathy and compassion for her and wishing I could tell her it’ll all be okay in the end.
Surprisingly, I really liked how Lentzski didn’t stray from the contact previously written between Hunter and Elle. It would’ve been easy to go and add new scenes between them, but I feel that it would’ve taken away from Winter Jacket, and I definitely don’t want that.
I also loved where the book ended. It was the perfect spot to show these two characters finally coming together, showing their feelings, and knowing that whatever the road ahead brought their way, they would be able to face it together.
This isn’t necessarily a con, but I’ll probably get slapped by fans of this series for this. While I loved this chapter in the Hunter and Elle story, I don’t believe Lentzski needs to retell the entire series through Hunter Dyson. This was the perfect prequel so show us the real Hunter, and now that we have that I think we can let these two ladies live happily ever after.
If you loved the original Winter Jacket, then you should definitely pick this up. Not only do you get to see this personal side of Hunter Dyson, you also get to revisit these people and places you fell in love with. This time you see it through a set of eyes that are just as loving and tender as the author who created them.
Excerpt from Hunter by Eliza Lentzski
I looked up at my apartment complex, not wanting to leave the coziness of Professor Graft’s car or the casualness of our conversation. Sitting in her running car with darkness and falling rain all around us, I could almost pretend we were at the conclusion of a date. Almost.
“Thank you for the ride,” I said before my imagination could go any further.
Her smile seemed to light up the darkened car. “Have a nice weekend.”
I flipped my hood over my head and, gritting my teeth to brace myself for the impending rain, I left the protection of her car. It was still only water, but I raced up the front walkway and only stopped when I reached the protective overhang above my apartment complex’s entryway.
My keys were in the front pocket of my jacket; my numb fingers fumbled for the right one.
“Come on, Dyson” I muttered to myself. The combination of stiff fingers and stage fright had me more awkward than usual.
I finally worked the front door open. I spun around, not really expecting Professor Graft’s car to still be there, yet it was. Had she stayed there to make sure I hadn’t locked myself out of my own apartment building?
A kind giddiness rushed over me, and I waved at the still-parked car. Between the golden glow of her headlights and the rapid movement of her wiper blades, I couldn’t really make out the driver more than a shadowed figure. I stayed with my hand in the air until the vehicle eventually reversed and the red taillights faded into the darkness.
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ISBN number: 9781975712532