Mac and Amy were best friends, but then Amy was suddenly killed by a werewolf. After her death, everything starts to spiral out of control; Mac is having dreams where Amy haunts her, Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, is drowning his grief in alcohol, and Mac is busy trying to convince herself that her feelings for her friend, Kyle, are purely platonic. When the Trackers come to Hemlock to investigate Amy’s murder, things get even worse, and Amy decides that she has to figure out the truth behind Amy’s death. But she’ll soon discover that there are plenty of secrets surrounding her town and her group of friends, and those secrets may very well endanger her life.
Hemlock is set in a US where the werewolf virus – known as Lupine Syndrome – is running rampant. Those infected are confined to “internment camps”, which are very reminiscent of concentration camps, including the comments that they’re not as bad as reported. In fact, the whole entire thing had a very WWII/Holocaust feel to it, what with the propaganda going up to “report any suspicious behavior” and the charismatic leader of the Tracker group using anything necessary to find and punish those with LS who are hiding their illness. It’s definitely a pretty bleak world, not only because of the illness itself but all of the hatred and fear that’s swirling around because of it. If you think about it too much, it starts to get rather depressing, which I’m sure was the point.
There is tons of guilt going around in this book. Mac feels guilty about Amy because she cancelled plans with her the night she died. Kyle feels guilty because he didn’t answer his phone when she called. Jason feels guilty for … something I won’t spoil. All of them are “dealing” with this guilt in their own ways, and failing miserably. Because Mac is our narrator, we see everything from her point of view, and for the most part I enjoyed her. While she carries the guilt with her, she’s also a bit of a fixer, trying to get Jason to sober up and straighten out. She’s fairly witty, and I liked her determination to discover the truth about Amy; she was a very strong character. But all the while I was thinking, “Aaaaand here’s another book where the main character decides to take it upon herself to solve a crime!” I have read at least three books that had this same plot this year alone, but will say that this was the first to include werewolves. I’m just kind of done with the whole “teenage girl thinks she can solve the mystery better than the authorities”-trope.
And then, of course, because this is a YA novel, we have to have a love triangle (because no YA novel is complete without one!), too, but at least it’s done in a somewhat humorous way. See, Mac doesn’t realize that Jason actually has feelings for her – the reader, of course, knows this pretty early on, but Mac is a bit obtuse – and instead has feelings for Kyle, which are brought to her attention when Kyle kisses her (after her protesting that they are “just friends” for the first part of the book). I am honestly not sure what to make of this whole love triangle thing, because it seems pretty apparent that Mac loves Kyle. But at the same time, Mac can’t help trying to fix Jason, too, and it really gets kind of convoluted and confusing. I did like this line, though: “My life was not becoming one of those torrid teen-angst shows on cable.” (80%) Kind of like the author was poking fun at the trope herself, but not enough to, you know, NOT use it. And because this is the first of three books, I’m sure we’ll see even MORE of the indecisiveness in the future, although I really hope I’m wrong.
I also got a little annoyed with some of the author’s phrasing, particularly whenever Mac would “whisper-yell” or “whisper-beg”. She was also good at “stumble-limp”-ing and “stumble-trip”-ping. I don’t know what it was, but the hyphenations just really irritated me and took me out of the narrative. Totally personal, yes, but still something that bothered me.
The librarian in me loved the little shout-out to the Patriot Act. It’s a little frightening to think how it would be used in a world like the one in Hemlock; I don’t know if it was particularly chilling to me because we talked about it so much in our classes or what, but this line really grabbed me: “Maybe it was extra paranoid on my part, but if I were a creepy hate group dedicated to finding and eradicating werewolves, I’d try to get the library records and see who had checked out the books on [Lupine Syndrome].” (38%) One can only imagine how dangerous that would be.
Because all of this probably leaves the impression that I didn’t enjoy the book, let me try to rectify. This book – once I got about 30% or so into it – was a really quick read. It is action-packed, full of danger, twists and turns, and definitely keeps the reader interested. There were definitely things I didn’t like (see above!), but I found the story compelling enough to give the next book a read. It’s not the best book ever, but is a decent start to a new series. If you like well developed mysteries, werewolves and strong, motivated female leads, give it a read.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.