Resources // Blog

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

--Staff Picks General


Stephen Graham Jones
Published: 2016
Age Range: Young Adult, Adult
Genre: Horror, Bildungsromans
Awards: Bram Stoker Award Nominee (2016); Shirley Jackson Award Nominee (2016)

In this engaging and often sardonic first-person account, the nameless child narrator tells the stories of his life growing up in a family of werewolves. Gritty and realistic, Jones draws a vivid picture of the life of people who scrape by on the edges of society. Werewolves are always hungry, always on the hunt and on the run, traversing the American South.

Through the boy’s eyes, we learn a lot about werewolves, These are people who value stories over possessions. But these stories, told to the boy by his grandfather, his Uncle Darren, and occasionally his Aunt Libby, are unreliable—lies but also true. They are how werewolves educate their young.

Imagine being a child in a family full of monsters…

We follow the boy and his family through various vignettes and graphically violent scenes. Despite the horror, the boy waits, hoping, he, too, will “turn” and become a werewolf himself as he passes through puberty. This serves as the main arc and tension of the novel—will he or won’t he?—and also a metaphor for how children so want to emulate the adults in their lives, even if those adults are toxic, unhinged, or quite literally, monsters.

This is a smart, gripping, and, surprisingly, heartwarming coming of age story. I have come away with a greater appreciation of werewolves. It was not as scary as it was gory, and definitely a book I will remember. It might be good for people who enjoy stories about werewolves or other fantastical shapeshifters, as well as for those who like a coming-of-age story and don’t mind some graphic violence along with it. It may also appeal to people who enjoy stories about the American South.