Mongrels: It’s alive.
What’s your monster? If you’ve just read Stephen Graham Jones’s new novel, Mongrels, then werewolf should be your pick for now, forever.
Set all over the southern U.S., Stephen Graham Jones gives us a time-honored tale of growing up with a loving family, poverty and oh, that’s right—the inclination to change into a giant four-legged beast. And this loving family? They’re all werewolves, and they come from a long line of them. These werewolves don’t change at the full moon, but silver burns bad. And they never, ever wear pantyhose—kiss of death, I tell you.
Not everybody changes. Sometimes the wolf is in your blood but never shows itself, never asks the body to mutate.
And that’s all our main character wants, really: to be like his family and turn, finally, into a werewolf. It’s what he was born to be, you see.
Until that time, he’s got his daredevil Uncle Darren (who loves women and pink wine coolers) and his fiery aunt Libby to keep him out of trouble. As any good pack, they will do whatever is necessary to keep themselves and their nephew alive.
That’s the book review part.
Aside from the story, let’s talk about why this book kills. Let’s nerd out.
This novel: Mongrels? It’s alive. Yes, because the story is good but also because of the Craft with a capital ‘C.’ Stephen Graham Jones (the author of 23 books now) makes this book come alive. Most writers are really only able to give a book a body, some legs and maybe an arm to hold you, pull you in. Stephen Graham Jones gives Mongrels a heartbeat and lungs by implementing ‘breaks’ in certain tense sections.
Picture it this way.
You’re running through the woods. Just careening through really, when something snags you. A root or a rock, maybe. All that momentum from you running, it just stops.
And everything is still.
But, you get up and go faster because whatever is chasing you, it’s gaining. Here’s a small excerpt, so you get what I mean.
As far as the police knew, he was just drifting through, was alone. It was all we had to save him. That and a bear. We wouldn’t know the rest of the story until morning, but here’s how Darren got picked up.
It leaves you, for just a moment asking, ‘Picked up? By the police? What about the bear? And why wouldn’t they know the rest until morning?’
And that keeps the audience reading at a breakneck pace because there are questions to answer. No longer is it just a story to finish but there are things you need to know right now.
By scattering those breaks throughout Mongrels, Jones has not only gifted the public a well-written werewolf novel, but also, by giving the story something so small, so normal like breathing, he propels you into the world of werewolves. This book begs you to run, run with me.