In Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones introduces us to a family of werewolf drifters, who are sometimes even grifters. But the con is that they roam the outskirts of town to find fresh kill (and sometimes – eww – roadkill) and never keep a car longer than a month or maybe two. Or is it the truth and not a con?
The narrator is the youngest member of the family, a boy who tells the stories in a haphazard, not very chronological order, as young boys will. We never learn his name, but we certainly learn his hopes and dreams. And they all center around whether he’s a werewolf too. According to his aunt and uncle, who raise him, werewolves don’t turn the first time until they’re at least eight years old, or sometimes older. And this kid is waiting with bated breath.
A lot of Mongrels is a bildungsroman tale, with a werewolf twist. The kid’s uncle is an irresponsible (make that irrepressible) werewolf, always getting in trouble. The constant need to bail him out is a tale told often with addiction at its core. In this case, the addiction is running loose and killing deer or something weirder for food. So there’s a lot that’s familiar here. But Jones tells a fresh and unpredictable take on the rough life this family leads. Their crises are original, as are their solutions.
The writing is fresh, funny, and paced like an easy run with a few great hills. Each character is given their part in the stories, so we get to know and care about the family. It’s a crackin’ good twist on werewolf tales!