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.