One Sentence Synopsis
A coming-of-age story with fangs where a boy grows up in a family of werewolves and can’t wait for his turn to sprout fur.
“The modern world, it’s custom-designed to kill werewolves. There’s french fries, for one.”
I read this book during the first round of the Trope-ical Readathon this year. It was the team book for Team Mystery/Horror/Thriller and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with it. I had never read anything from Stephen Graham Jones and my feelings towards werewolves is very… meh. I’m so glad I gave this a shot, though, because I loved it!
We’re following a young boy and his life with his family. Fun fact, though: everyone in his small family is werewolves. He lives with his Uncle Darren and Aunt Libby and his life seems to be in a constant state of flux. They move a lot (on account of the whole werewolf thing), both Darren and Libby are forever in and out of jobs, and our young protagonist lives with one question constantly burning in the back of his mind. When will it be his turn to shift?
As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of werewolf stories, but this book may have changed my views! I think what did it for me is that, though being a werewolf is a huge part of this story, it’s somehow not the main focus. What we’re really focusing on is watching this young man grow up and come into his own. We’re focusing on his transient life with his aunt and uncle and on how that affects him. This is less a story about werewolves and more a coming-of-age tale about a boy… who just happens to crave the day he becomes a werewolf, too.
Don’t get it twisted, though! Stephen Graham Jones certainly doesn’t shy away from the more gory aspects you would expect in a tale featuring lycanthropes. We get all the myths, all the legends, and plenty of tidbits about werewolf lore, though told in an incredibly unique way. It’s like we’re learning about life as a werewolf right alongside the protagonist as his aunt and uncle prepare him for what could be. But we’re also kept on the edge of our seats because we don’t really know if he’ll ever actually shift or not. I loved how the author built that tension in the story and I love how he weaved a contemporary tale and a horror story effortlessly.
I will say there were moments were the book felt a little slow to me. But we’re watching a kid grow up. Even if your family devours raw meat (that they probably just killed) on the regular, there are some pretty dull parts of getting older. Overall, though, I was engaged from beginning to end! The writing was great, the characters beautifully written, and the ending was *chef’s kiss*
Final thoughts: I do love a genre-bending book and I think this one fits the bill! It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story that just happens to have werewolves in it. Or it’s a perfectly gory horror story with a bit of heart. Whatever it is, I loved it! If you like your horror to have a lot of layers, incredible character work, and great writing, then I think you would enjoy Mongrels!