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book cover  The reviews for this book are great and most of them say three things: it was inspired by the 1987 movie Near Dark, it has a different - realistic - take on werewolves and it's a coming of age story. As such, the main character in Mongrels is a boy that lives in a family of werewolves: people that occasionally turn into wolf like creatures, but that brings few advantages and a lot of trouble. Not only are their instincts frustrating in a human society, but turning takes a lot of energy and turning back pulls anything in the fur inside the skin of the human shape: ticks, elastic materials and as wolves they age with the speed of dogs. Since they can't adapt to the normal human way of life, they live on its fringes, as a family of white trash Americans. They steal, they scavenge, they kill animals whenever it doesn't get too suspicious, they move a lot and they are always poor.

  I can't say the book is badly written, but it's the equivalent of, I don't know, werewolf Kenny from Southpark. It's depressing, it's gray, it tries too much to make a social commentary by using the werewolf thing as a gimmick. Yes, it's a fresh take on the mythos, but it's a boring one. It certainly is not a horror book and too little of it is fantastic in nature. Instead it's the story of this boy trying to make up his mind if he is a wolf or a man. It could have just as well been a story about homeless gypsies, without any of the wolf thing, and it would have been the same.

  Bottom line: Stephen Graham Jones is clearly a good writer, but in this case he just wrote a smart book... about werewolves. And Near Dark was way better!


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