This. This was the werewolf book I’d been looking for. It was messed up and beautiful and brutal and touching and I loved it.
This was one of those books where the characters were so completely different from myself, their lives so different (and I love those kinds of books because they let me see through a whole new perspective). They didn’t have enough money for food half the time and had to hunt it down or steal it. They bounced around from place to place, living in falling apart, pest-ridden trailers and duplexes with appliances that didn’t work. Libby, Darren, and the protagonist all dropped out of high school before they reached 17. They stole and killed and committed who knows what other crimes. That was their life. That was all they knew.
And the unnamed protagonist’s voice was fantastic. The way he saw things. The way he looked up to Darren so much. The way he wanted to be a werewolf like his aunt and uncle so badly that he molded his life around it and thought of everything in his life as werewolf things. And Darren? He was a piece of work. I don’t think I’ll ever see a strawberry wine cooler again without thinking of him. He stole the show a bit, and he would be pleased if he knew that. I felt invested in all three main characters though. They were scarred and flawed and not always the best of people, but I was rooting for them.
“Bears and wolves aren’t meant to get along,” Darren said. The cool way he looked to the left and touched a spot above his eyebrow when he said it, it sounded like a line he’d been saving his whole long way home.
Possibly the best thing about this book though was the heart-warming family aspect. These people weren’t perfect, but damn, did they love each other. Any time one of them got into trouble—and they got into trouble a lot, especially Darren—the others were there to save them. Wrestling bears, crashing through walls, running into burning buildings—it didn’t matter what they had to do, they were there.
As for the paranormal aspect, this was a portrayal of werewolves that was gritty and brutal. This was not a sexy or glamorous ability. There were some disturbing things in this book, including animal cruelty and a lot of dead dogs. But this was the kind of portrayal I wanted. I also loved the creativity and thought and attention to detail that went into all of it.
When Darren came back in the morning, I was standing at the El Camino’s tailgate looking for my math book. Werewolves don’t need math though.
This book was a little strange though in that it wasn’t your typical plot-based story. It took place over the course of eight or nine years and was just about the protag’s unusual life, about a boy finding his place in his family and the world. The story was messed up at times and a little bittersweet, yet touching. It was mostly linear, but every other chapter was a little vignette of something from the protag’s past (related to werewolves). I enjoyed all of it though.
Last but not least, I loved how the writing was raw and gritty and beautiful all at once.
Overall, I was completely engrossed by the beautiful writing, the brutal portrayal of werewolves, the flawed characters, and the touching family aspect!
Anyone who likes gritty werewolf portrayals, coming of age stories, flawed characters, and touching family relationships.
A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy whose family lives on the fringes of society and struggles to survive in a hostile world that shuns and fears them.
He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixedblood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrels must decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.
For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and close calls—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast, now. Everything is about to change.
A compelling and fascinating journey, Mongrels alternates between past and present to create an unforgettable portrait of a boy trying to understand his family and his place in a complex and unforgiving world. A smart and innovative story—funny, bloody, raw, and real—told in a rhythmic voice full of heart, Mongrels is a deeply moving, sometimes grisly novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative new way.