A Holden Caulfield analogue dropped into an old horror movie with a soundtrack by Warren Zevon.

MONGRELS

A boy raised by werewolves chronicles the hurt and confusion of growing up strange.

Prolific postmodernist writer Jones (After the People Lights Have Gone Off, 2014, etc.) continues his deep dive into genre fiction with this messy coming-of-age novel that attempts to blend Southern gothic, the country nuance of Daniel Woodrell, and the blood-and-guts horror of John Horner Jacobs, with mixed results. Our unnamed first-person narrator tells the story of his upbringing among a traveling pack of werewolves. After his grandfather dies in a grisly transformation, the boy is left with only his Uncle Darren and Aunt Libby to look after him. On the cusp of adolescence at about 12 years old, he can tell he’s changing but not what he’s changing into—his family is convinced he’s just late in turning into one of them, but he remains unsure. The novel has little unifying plot other than a series of interconnected vignettes and the boy’s running commentary on the nature and character of werewolves. It’s a lot of this: “We’re werewolves. This is what we do, this is how we live. If you want to call it that.” The most compelling moment comes when the boy meets a girl, Brittany Andrews, who wants him to turn her into a werewolf, but this subtle plot is cast away, too. In some ways, it’s a love letter to the American South, and Jones’ portrayals of rural Americana ring true in many ways. Horror enthusiasts will also dig the graphic mythology here—transformations are as bloody and visceral as anything this side of An American Werewolf in London. But in trying to strip bare the language and view the world through an adolescent lens, the book largely apes the experience of growing up—and is likely to leave readers confused, frustrated, and impatient.

A Holden Caulfield analogue dropped into an old horror movie with a soundtrack by Warren Zevon.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241269-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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