Sunday, June 12, 2016

Book Review: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Hardcover, 300 pages

Published May 10th 2016 by William Morrow

If you are the fence about reading this book and check out a few of the reviews you'll probably see this word alot - SPECIAL. This is a one of a kind literary horror masterpiece. I know that kinda of hyperbole can often set up a book for failure. I am not sure anything can ruin this novel. Written by literature professor Stephen Graham Jones who has published more than a dozen novels, and he has been hinting for yeas that he was passionate about writing a werewolf novel. He clearly loves the creatures and after two false starts he does the almost unthinkable - An original take of the werewolf mythos.

Mongrels is a werewolf novel just as much an outsider coming of age tale. Our narrator is a werewolf, at least his Grandfather, aunt and uncle are. His grandfather was the first to tell him and he believes that someday he will one day shift. He has not when we meet him, and as much as he yearns to, it is beyond him. In the 80's Teen Wolf used this concept to get laughs but here SGJ creates both a outsider teen but family that lives on the fringe. Traveling around town to town deal with all the challenges werewolf life brings to them. The journey is an intense one that has plenty of laughs, chills and the heartache of a teen both scared and anxious grow-up. All teenagers fear this process but when you are a werewolf...

The Aunt and Uncle - Libby and Darren are great characters who seem magical and pathetic some times on the same page. They provide a window to the south, mid-south and south east where they travel. Drifting from town to town they work shit jobs teach us and our POV character the ins and outs of being a werewolf. This talk about what a werewolf is or is not takes up a good part of the novel, I think if I was told about that ahead of time I might not of thought that would work. It does.

Every other chapter leaves the story for a an aside. Those chapters explain werewolves almost like a class each of those chapters leave first person. They each start with a person's title say The mechanic. Then that chapter would be about the Mechanic's aunt or uncle (or Vampire, teacher or whatever) This first chapter like this almost lost me, and I am not sure entirely what this was supposed to mean. I enjoyed these chapters and think it has something to do with how our narrator feels about being an outsider.

SGJ violates one of the sacred rules of writing almost wire to wire but with zero fucks given he makes it work beautifully. That rule "SHOW DON'T TELL" takes a beating. Most of the book is told, told to the narrator and told almost conversationally to us. I don't know the main characters name, but I know him well.

Mongrels is a fantastic novel that feels dangerous, semi-feral and raw. It is unlike any werewolf novel I can remember and considering it is 2016 that is saying something. Smart, funny, sad and scary at times like most great novels Mongrels is a journey of discovery.

No comments: