Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, Review

 

Now, clear your mind. Breathe deep. Exhale. If I was to say to you I’ve got this great book here, it’s a coming of age story but there’s a twist. It’s about… Werewolves! What would be your first thought? To what conclusion would your brain jump? YA? I knew it! However, Mongrels is not a young adult book, it’s a finely crafted story told from a teenage werewolf. He lives with his aunt and uncle and they travel the length and breadth of the United States never staying in place too long. I’d heard Mongrels was good and it is, it’s one of those that, although not flawless, is difficult not to enjoy.img_1677

As mentioned, the story follows the lives of three Werewolves, Libby, Darren and the unnamed teenage narrator. They travel and never settle too long and at night, Libby and Darren turn and get up to all kinds of lycanthropy based shenanigans. The Narrator has yet to get his flat tongue and isn’t, technically, a fully-fledged werewolf yet. The chapters change occasionally between current times, with the narrator ageing incrementally, and in the past to when he was younger so we can see events that have shaped his personality. Jones hasn’t just presented us with a situation and expects us to get on with it, he’s fleshed out this hidden sub-culture. Libby and Darren both dispel Werewolf knowledge to the Narrator, we learn what’s Hollywood bullshit and what Werewolves like and dislike. What kills them, why they should always wear jeans and why they avoid French Fried. It feels as if the Narrator is relaying secret knowledge that we, the reader, shouldn’t be privy to. When reading, you may feel that some sections are mundane, like the old trope, is this the most interesting part of your protagonist’s life? If not, why aren’t you showing us that? Then you’ll remember “oh yeah… They’re Werewolves.” Every day is the most interesting day. That’s part of Jones’ talent as a writer, he makes you believe the surface level normality of the pack.

I can normally judge a book by how quickly I get through it. How I want to read it, how I don’t want to put it down. If I find myself day-dreaming about garden gnomes or scaring my cat with cucumbers, then that’s a good indication that I’m just not into it. At no point throughout Mongrels did my mind wander. It’s a wholly satisfying read and the horror that comes with the subject matter is told in such a matter of fact way, that you think back to it when you close your eyes that night. If you read it, let me know when you get to the bit about the tights. That shit is just plain nasty. Anyway, would recommend Mongrels, give it a read then enjoy a basket of live baby rabbits to mull it over.

 

Ben

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