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Mongrels

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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.

300 pages, Hardcover

First published May 10, 2016

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About the author

Stephen Graham Jones

215 books7,078 followers
Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of twenty-five or thirty books. He really likes werewolves and slashers. Favorite novels change daily, but Valis and Love Medicine and Lonesome Dove and It and The Things They Carried are all usually up there somewhere. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado. It's a big change from the West Texas he grew up in. He's married with a couple kids, and probably one too many trucks.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,212 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,284 reviews119k followers
October 22, 2021
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright. - from The Wolf Man 1941
It’s hard out there for a wolf.

description
We’ve come a long way from the classic - from Vixens and Monster.tumblr.com

What did you want be? As children, we all have dreams of ourselves as adults. I started out, a West Bronx local in a very concrete world, wanting to be a forest ranger, later an astronaut, later still, an aeronautical engineer, with the usual adolescent rock star fantasy tossed in. I imagine most of us had dreams well within the range of reasonable human experience and fantasy, whether or not we ever saw them through to fruition. The narrator of Mongrels, being raised by his aunt Libby, uncle Darren and his grandfather, dreams of growing up to be like them. I guess many of us want to be like the adults who raise us. Libby, Darren and Grandpa, however, are werewolves.
werewolves, they’ve always been where it’s at for me. I remember being twelve, living way out in the country, and creeping up from my bed after lights out and pressing my forehead to the cold glass, so I could watch the darkness for werewolves. I had no doubt at all that they were running in these fast clockwise circles around our house. And that if I quit watching even for a blink, then they were coming in for us. So I’ve been thinking on the werewolf for a long time, now. I’ve been watching for them. What always interested me most about them, though, after the teeth and claws and transformations, it was the day to day difficulties of being a different, maligned species. How to explain why your pants keep being ripped up? Why does your friend’s dog run yelping away when you walk up? I spent a lot of my twelfth year trying to become a werewolf—maybe because I knew I could never beat them, so I might as well get out there and run with them. But nothing ever took. So, Mongrels, it’s as close as I can get, I suppose - from Muzzlepress interview
Mongrels is a magnificent imagining of what it might look like if werewolves were really padding around in the 21st century American South. No effete vampires here. This is very much a working class wolf world, bloody, desperate, fearful, primitive.

description
Stephen Graham Jones

Jones tells his story in eighteen chapters that wander in time and location. The narrator is a never-named boy (well, a teacher addresses him by a name, but we assume it to be a temporary, not a true one) we watch through his growth from age eight to sixteen, (although not in chronological order) the age by which those whose DNA is of the tooth and claw variety usually manifest their nature. He yearns for the change, even though there is no guarantee that it will happen for him.

Jones indulges in a bit of cuteness by referring to his narrator as the vampire in one chapter, the reporter in another, the biologist in a third, and so on. It’s pretty adorable, and works in a way to counterpoint delight and bloodiness. I was reminded of Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which employs a similar technique.

description
An American Werewolf in London raised the bar for cinematic ch-ch-changes

This is a peripatetic pack, more itinerant than territorial, always trying to keep one step ahead of suspicious neighbors and inquisitive law enforcement. They are very tough on the vehicles they somehow keep acquiring. And if you had the misfortune of renting a residence to them you will be making full use of the security deposit for cleanup after they leave.

Much of the fun in the book lies in the many specifics of werewolf existence. For example,
Werewolves are paranoid about having dog breath, are always brushing their teeth and chewing mints.
Some of the details are fascinating. Proper change attire is of great and surprising importance. Mating with a human does not bode well for a non-lycan woman who does not hew to the safety first mantra. Silver is considered. Education is primarily through TV game shows and family tales that may or may not have germs of truth. One thing it is not is at all glamorous. They encounter various sorts in their travels, WW wannabees, a stalker, an exploitive businessman who sees economic opportunity in milking a captive lycan to enhance his profit margins. While there may be no pentagrams, an angry mob with actual torches and pitchforks puts in an appearance that is part alarming, and part comedic.

Famous characters from American history are brought into the moonlight for a new look, and are guaranteed to make you bare your teeth, in a good way. The family banter gets hilarious on occasion (well, I thought it was pretty funny, anyway)
Just when I thought I’d figured out what made a girlfriend happy, what would make one stay, I would do something wrong again and that would be that.
“Something wrong, like, I don’t know, like eating their pet goat?” Libby said, without looking over from the game show glowing all our faces light blue.
The initiative for writing this book came from an unusual source.
Back in 2008 or so, I last-minute got asked to teach an open-topic Genre course. Like, the week before the semester. So I said sure—if I could teach zombies. Which I did for two or three or four years. Loved it. But then I wanted something different, so I proposed my heart’s true love, the werewolf. And it got approved, and I got some funds to buy up werewolf books and movies. So, cue the avalanche of texts here. It hit early in December of 2013, and I read about a werewolf book every two days, I imagine, and was watching movies deep into every night. My deadline was December 31st, too, so I shut down the course prep then. But my mind, it wouldn’t stop spinning with all this. So, on January 1st, my fingers twitching like they were going to pop claws, I sat down at the keyboard, started Mongrels, and had a solid draft of it down by the time the semester started. - from the Muzzlepress interview
If you have issues with violence, or with creatures small and not so small coming to bloody ends, Mongrels is definitely not the right kibble for you. There is a considerable body count, people and critters. If you are expecting a straight-up fright-fest, I suppose there are things in here that might make the fur hair on the back of your hands neck stand up. I lost no sleep after reading this, but I tend not to keep my head under the covers after reading a horror book most of the time anyway, so that doesn’t really say much. I have felt a lot more fear about the well-armed masses of the paranoid and twitchy who are locked and loaded across our great nation, and of blustering authoritarian wannabes than I ever will be of shape-shifting migrant workers driving crappy cars and watching too much tube. But therein lies the great value of Mongrels.

If you look past the tooth and claw you will pick up the scent of underlying content. As with the folks under the scope here, there are two levels. The wolfy thing, and then the irresistible portrayal of people, any people, on the fringes of society. I was reminded of Willy Vlautin, who also writes of working class people struggling to survive in a challenging world. There is even a Steinbeckian fragrance your enhanced olfactory sense will probably pick up. I am sure you have your own favorite authors who hunt in those woods.

How can you ever get ahead if you are always on the move? How can you get an education if you have to leave every school because the cops are starting to close in? How can you stay in one place, even without doing the changing thing, if it is only a matter of time before your true nature is revealed, and you are shunned or worse by polite society? Whether that shunning is because you are devouring the local livestock or because you are just, however proper your behavior, not considered the right sort of people. You can bet someone would love to build a wall to keep those people out.

description
Heeeeeeeere’s Wolfie

The turf Jones writes of here is familiar, as he has personally traveled it a fair bit.
”We farmed, but we didn’t make our living off of farming,” he explains. “My mom ran daycare, or she would work at a tanning salon. Just all kinds of jobs. My different stepdads would work construction or in the oil fields. We always would come back to the same farming community in Greenwood, but that was just the place we’d bounce off of before going somewhere else. We always had a horse trailer that we’d pack bags and boxes in and go.” - from the Westword interview
So, bottom line is that we likee the lycans. Yeah, Mongrels may not be all that scary, but it is very smart, particularly in the imagining of WW-life details. It has something to say about class and society, and it is a lot of fun. It may not force you to shift your shape, even if you read it during a full moon, but Mongrels is delightful enough to warrant more than a few joyful howls, and if you get the urge to dine on a neighbor’s livestock after reading it, or even your neighbor, for that matter, at least you will know that you are probably not alone. Mongrels is a real treat.

Review Posted – 6/24/16

Publication Date – 5/10/16

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

Interviews
-----Muzzleland Press -CUT MY FINGERTIPS, THEY BLEED TEXAS: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES ON HIS NEW NOVEL MONGRELS - by Jonathan R
-----from Westword - With Mongrels, This Is Stephen Graham Jones's Time to Howl - by Jason Heller

A video on writing by SGJ

description
I only want a trim, not a cut, ok?

I absolutely had to include this link, so kitschy, so 80s, so un-lupine

-----Stephen Graham Jones - Crimereads - July 15, 2020 - Why Exposing Kids to Horror Might Actually Be Good for Them
Particularly in the world today, we need to learn the lesson that, while there is certainly evil in the world, it is possible to overcome it. I have always had a fondness for horror. When I was seven years old, my mother took me to see The Crawling Eye, a cheesy sci-fi/horror flick that I loved. The Tingler came out when I was still seven, and I saw and loved that one too, maybe with my older brother. A few years later Mr Sardonicus. I can recall no trauma, although clearly I had mom’s DNA and enjoyment of horror films to support my interest. Jones makes a strong point about why it is important to stay the course while exposing your kids to these things. Well worth reading.
-----NY Times - 8/14/20 - ‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi by Alexandra Alter
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 18 books3,706 followers
October 26, 2018
“Always feed a wolf his fill," the old woman quotes out loud, "lest you wake with your throat in his jaws.”

Until very recently, I always thought that lycanthropy was a made up condition. Human beings don't really turn into human-wolf hybrids under a full moon--ripping through their clothes and feasting on hapless prey. But I just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones a few days ago, a buddy read with my pal Mindi and now I'm pretty sure Dr. Jones is an actual werewolf and he wrote this "fictional" handbook of sorts so that horror fans could be believers.
*raising my hand* I'm a believer!
This book has hundreds of reviews so I'm not feeling like I'm going to add anything new to the fray but I want to impress upon anyone who maybe hasn't read this book (I'm the last one to finish, aren't I?) that this is hands down the best novel about werewolves on the market.
Jones has built so much realism into lycanthropy lore that Mongrels could be the gold standard on which all others could be compared.
And just to make the package even more delicious, there's a sweet coming-of-age tale in these pages told in a fashion that I have already come to love about SGJ. If you've read his novella, MAPPING THE INTERIOR, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, I'll say that the 10 year old protagonist in MONGRELS reads like the true-to-life narrative of a real child finding his identity in this world and in the context of his family--a "den of werewolves". My favorite aspect of this story was the thread of change/transformation woven through all the lessons and vignettes.
Will he or won't he? Is he or isn't he? These are the questions between the lines and it was a fantastic way for SGJ to keep his reader invested until the final pages. The ending was exactly what I wanted. As the story wound down to its conclusion, it was infused with emotion and a lingering sense of longing for the story to continue. I could have read about this family for a long time. This stems from everything that SGJ is busy doing in the subtext--because even though this book has its lighter moments and some laugh-out-loud surprises, the weight of the underlying themes were ever present and tugging at my heart strings.
Boys want to belong. They want to have a tribe. They want to feel important, loved for who they are and they want to have a place in this world. To be noticed--and not for being different in a negative way--they want to be different in a way that people celebrate.
This book made my heart explode, honestly.
I'll never see werewolves the same again.
Or French Fries and Pantyhose.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
April 28, 2022
OH NO SPOOKTOBER IN YOUR FACE!!



fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one ARC each month i'd been so excited to get my hands on and then...never read

okay, i need more stars for this one.

******************************************

This is what it means to be a werewolf

this book is definitely going to be in my top three for the year. <--- that is the beginning of a review i began in november 2021 and never got around to finishing. here in april 2022, i can tell you that it did indeed make the top three.

i grabbed this ARC back in TWENTY FIFTEEN because even back then i'd heard great things about this author, and that cover is divine, so i don't know why i waited so long to read it. if i had known that it was one of those emotionally resonant family horror stories like A Cosmology of Monsters or The Saturday Night Ghost Club, where the horror/supernatural elements are just ingredients baked into a beautifully sad family drama that breaks your heart, i would not have dawdled.

werewolves aren't necessarily my thing, but i love horror, so i've been around the werewolf block a few times in my life, discovering some great werewolf-y books and movies along the way, but this one is something special.

sgj has taken the to-be-expected tropes of a werewolf story and wrapped them in all new material, a mythos painstakingly developed right down to the bones, scritching this new beast behind its ears until it howls.

Mongrels is about a family of itinerant werewolves, endlessly pulling up stakes and skipping town to avoid discovery; a blurry succession of temporary addresses and fresh starts. their only constant is the family—their three-person pack—and they are fiercely loyal; they would fight kill or die for each other. and they have and they do.

our narrator is a boy growing up into an adolescent hoping to grow up into a werewolf, moving from town to town with his aunt, uncle, and grandfather, as yet unshifted but wanting to change so desperately, to become like the rest of his family, to transform into what he's meant to be.

but there's no guarantee that he will change—and this uncertainty and yearning is a palpable weight hanging over every page, adding a whole 'nother layer on top of the more traditional coming-of-age themes like emotional growth, taking responsibility, and preserving the family values.

it's one of the most poignant and heartbreaking stories i've ever read—a family bound together fiercely by their love, commitment and sacrifice, who also just matter-of-factly happen to be werewolves.

they're a very insular pack—as wary of other werewolves as they are of humans, and their pattern of staying on the move and leaving everything behind means they don't have a community to fall back on or others of their kind to share information with, and as a result, they don't know as much as they think they know about what they are. their understanding of the rules, dangers, and possibilities has come from relying on family lore which has, over time, become a game of telephone; misinformation passed down through the generations preventing them knowing that there are other, less lonely ways to be a werewolf in the world.

it's funny and sad and violent and i fell deeply in love with every one of the characters. i especially loved the grandfather and his stories, and when those stories were later refracted (telling me one story, meaning another), and the underlying truths behind each of them was revealed; moondogs, sad eyes, it is genuinely moving, and even though it kept punching me in the heart, i never wanted it to end.

it's perfect.

i don't know what else to say.

it's absolutely perfect.

and my heart's still howling about it.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Char .
1,596 reviews1,442 followers
February 7, 2017
I feel bad about it, but I'll say it anyway: Mongrels didn't work that well for me.

I listened to the audio and at first I thought it was the narrators that were my problem. After a while, though, I became accustomed to their voices and they were NOT my problem.

My problem was: I didn't like it. There it is. I believe I "got" what the author was trying to do and while I admire it, in the end it just didn't work for me.

I recommend you give this one a shot if the synopsis sounds interesting to you. It was well written and funny at times, and as it so often happens- pretty much everyone loved this book, except me. You'll probably love it too!

*I checked this out of my library through the Overdrive app. Thanks, library!*
Profile Image for Danger.
Author 32 books616 followers
August 31, 2016
This book was great. I mean, there’s not a more succinct way to put it. G-R-E-A-T.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man who lives in a family of outlaw werewolves, and a chronicle of their travels across the impoverished and dangerous American South. I don’t know if that last sentence sells the book or not, but if it doesn't, FEAR NOT! The execution far surpasses the general conceit. This book is ENGAGING. I mean, I was rapt from the first few pages. There’s something poetic, yet effortless, in the voice in which Jones uses to tell this tale. Hints of colloquialism keeps the prose bouncing along as BIG concepts get boiled down into simple (and sometimes gory/gruesome) metaphors. Behind the horror and all the werewolf talk, this truly is a story about growing up and the TRUE terror that brings. Although the books is told in chapters that work like vignettes, spanning the course of narrator’s “formative years,” and as such, it eschews a plot-driven story arc, it makes up for it with laser-focused CHARACTER arcs that I, as a reader, couldn’t help but be emotionally invested in.

There’s a thousand small revelations and a thousand small victories to be found in these pages, and that’s in ADDITION to what is perhaps the best werewolf story I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor. Read this.
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
231 reviews44 followers
August 30, 2022


"This is the way werewolf stories go. Never any proof. Just a story that keeps changing, like it’s twisting back on itself, biting its own stomach to chew the poison out."

1.5 ⭐'s

Initial Thoughts

Who doesn't love a good werewolf story? One of my first memories of horror was the classic American Werewolf in London. Stick to the road and stay off the moors. Blue moon! You know what I'm talking about. Such fond, heart warming memories. Set me on the glorious path to being a lifelong horror fan. It will always have a special place in my black heart.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones was a book I was really looking forward to. I love experiencing new authors, especially ones like this. With a reputation as one of the best upcoming authors in the genre, it was definitely about time I gave him a whirl. So when the chance to join a friend in a buddy read came about I was hungry (like a wolf) to devour this book.

"“Wolves, werewolves like us, we’ve got bigger teeth to eat with, better eyes to see with, sharper claws to claw with. Bigger everything, even stomachs, because we eat more, don’t know when the next meal’s coming."

The Story

The story follows an unnamed narrator who's a teenage boy, traveling with his redneck family around the south east states and living on the fringes of society. Never staying long enough to draw suspicion, they occasionally cause trouble and then take off to pastures new.

We find out right off the bat that the reason they need to keep a low profile is that what we have here is a family of werewolves, although the narrator hasn't figured out whether he'll follow in their footsteps and turn into one. But this is a very unique take on the werewolf sub genre that I haven't seen done before. Graham Jones dispells a number of the myths associated with these creatures of the night, like it having to be a full moon to turn, and adds a lot of his own. It creates a very fresh take.

But you should know that this is much more of a coming of age tale, instead of violence and mayhem, as the author focuses on family unity and poverty . The gang have to beg, borrow and steal to make ends meat, picking up dead end jobs and knocking off gas stations when the opportunity presents itself. It did remind me of that classic vampire movie Near Dark...only with werewolves.

The Writing

Stephen Graham Jones has developed a really fresh and interesting concept with Mongrels, but unfortunately that's as much praise as this one is getting from me. Damn, did I not like this one and that dislike started with the writing. This story is written episodically, with a series of interconnected vignettes. In doing so it jumps about all over the place, going back and forth in time, and there is very little unifying plot.

I can see that Jones is trying for literary horror in his style, which I normally love, and he can certainly write a sentence. But he cannot write a story! There is nothing fast or intense that happens within these three hundred pages and what we end up with is a bizarre coming of age tale dressed up in werewolf clothing. The storyline did not hold my interest at any point and instead of wanting to pick this book up I was looking for an excuse to put it down.

The author also does some annoying things that kept cropping up, such as calling the main character by his occupation (i.e. the mechanic), which changed a number of times during the course of the novel. Also, repetitive plot points, meaningless statements and using certain words again and again. As you can tell, I did not have a good time with this book.

Is there anything I liked in terms of the writing? The transformations of the characters into their lupine forms was really well done. Bloody and visceral. His use of prose really served him well here and I did appreciate it. But that's it.

"People say werewolves are animals, but they’re wrong. We’re so much worse. We’re people, but with claws, with teeth, with lungs that can go for two days, legs that can eat up counties. "

The Characters

As I've already said the story follows the unnamed narrator from the age of seven to seventeen and we see a fair amount of development. He's driven by the desperate wish to belong with his family and idolises his Uncle Darren. Darren being a strawberry wine cooler guzzling bad ass provides certainly the most interesting character in the story. But because the story bounces around all over the place it is hard to get connected to and thereby invested in them.

A love interest for our nameless narrator crops up in Brittany Andrews, who wants him to turn her into a werewolf, and this presented a key moment of interest for me. My heckles were definitely up. But Jones completely wastes this intriguing subplot and it's completely forgotten about.

As I always say, a book very often lives and dies by its characters. So Mongrels was left a bloody and ripped up mess as far as I was concerned in this aspect.

Final Thoughts

I really should have DNF'd this book as a mild dislike violently transformed into a passionate hatred by the finish. Honestly, I'll take a scrap with a werewolf anyday over reading this one again!

I picked this up hoping for a werewolf story that was different and that's exactly what I got. Only Mongrels was different for all the wrong reasons. Honestly you could ask me to name one memorable scene from this book and I'd be struggling big time. A concept that starts out okay soon gets boring and repetitive.

I don't often give negative reviews but I'm struggling to find positive things to say about this book. I've give it an extra point five of a star as I did manage to finish it and I could tell the author did have a talent with his actual prose. It just really wasn't my thing. I would recommend the novel Wolf's Hour by Robert R McCammon if you want a better werewolf book by an author who understands how to make a plot intense, fun and engaging.

That's enough of my moaning. Thanks for reading and...cheers!
Profile Image for Ron.
375 reviews83 followers
October 13, 2022
”Being a werewolf isn't just teeth and claws,” she said, her lips brushing my ear she was so close, so quiet, “it's inside. It's how you look at the world. It's how the world looks at you.”

If you're a werewolf, life is a life on the move. Never staying in one place too long. A fast car is a good thing, but not too flashy, cause why draw the unnecessary attention and a car is just a way to transport two-legs. Finding that temporary job in each new place isn't so easy, but don't set down stakes too long - ”being a werewolf, it's a game of Russian roulette,” Darren would say. “It's waking up with that gun to your temple.” People are certainly dangerous, if they figure you out. Other werewolves are too though, cause not all are exactly family. French fries and stretch pants...they'll kill you for sure. But don't think that being a werewolf is all running and running away. It is running with, and running to. It is a challenge, and it is beautiful.

He, who writes this story of his family, is just a young teen who hasn't grown his “teeth” yet, and maybe he never will. The young never know, if they'll be “one” or not, until it happens.

This is coming-of-age in a way I've never read. I can't remember reading more than one book about a werewolf, “Cycle of the Werewolf”, in my past and that is traditional. Mongrels is anything but. It is more about the person than a legend, though it does dive into that too. It is humorous and tender, leaning towards the human side of a boy who wants to be like those he loves, and for me the story settles near the top of my experience with Stephen Graham Jones.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews95k followers
Read
June 28, 2016
The best–the best— werewolf novel I have ever read. It’s a coming-of-age story of a young boy whose family lives on the fringes of society for several reasons: they’re brown, they’re poor, oh oh and also they’re werewolves constantly on the run from the law. Come for the heartbreak, the desperation, the superglue holding this family together; stay for the tidbits about lycanthrope daily life (like why they can never, ever wear pantyhose).

–Amanda Nelson



from The Best Books We Read In May 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/06/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,024 followers
October 29, 2018
This is a werewolf coming of age story that was so much fun to read. Clever chapter titles, fun little jokes you could miss if you weren't paying attention, fun twist on the beasties.
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,316 followers
June 21, 2016
It is always a treat to discover a novel that places new twists on old ideas. The werewolf novel has been around a long time and there really didn't seem to be much more one can say about the man-turns-wolf scenario. Yet Stephen Graham Jones doesn't just add a new twist but turns the entire concept on its head. In Mongrels we have a family of werewolves living as nomads in the south. The life of the modern day werewolf is grim, dreary and dangerous. Aunt Libby, Uncle Darren and their young nephew live like nomads in the American South, moving from place to place, working dreary low paying jobs and always vigilant of the many dangers werewolves face . The nephew, who is our young narrator throughout the book, has yet to turn. He gets his education on the perils of being lycanthrope from his grandfather, his aunt and his uncle and he is not always sure how much of it is real or exaggerated. Mongrels is primarily a coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in the most displaced and precarious life-style imaginable.

The author just doesn't change a few bits of werewolf lore. He rips them up and creates his own legends and culture. He has an original take on the sub-genre . He gives us an unique and fully realized culture of creatures with perils and rituals of their own. He manages to keep the horror of the monster yet endows them with more than a little pathos and empathy. While Mongrels may be classified as a horror tale, it is primarily a poignant story about the struggle to survive and growing up outside the norm.

Telling the story through the eyes of the young boy who have yet to turn wolf, and may not, is brilliant. Much of the behaviors and perils of lycanthropy are told to us by the aunt and uncle rather than experienced. We feel the awe and fear from the still innocent boy. I don't think we ever actually learn his name but that adds to the realization that he is part of an unique group yet feels not totally accepted either. The author seems to have a real ability to write about outsiders.

Stephen Graham Jones has an amazing skill with words. He can take a scene that is fraught with tension and, with a swift turn of phrase, find the dark humor in it. He may be writing about werewolves but there is a strong sense of Southern Realism that often speaks of humans whose lives are just as nomadic and bordering on disaster as the trio in this book. The horror in Jones' brilliant book is not just supernatural but tinted with a shrewd sense of social and cultural observation. These may be monsters but they are not far off from real life for some.

Mongrels is in turn horrific, brutal, funny and endearing all at once. it is a bluntly realistic portrayal of a supernatural family. And that is why it is so moving. We do not think of werewolves as three dimensional. In most books they are people who turn into monsters. It a Jekyll and Hyde quality that separate human from monster. We do not get that luxury here. In Mongrels, our protagonists cannot separate from the reality of what they are. We feel both privileged and horrified to see through the eyes of a child how they live and who they are. This may be a horror novel but it has a literary power that should be experienced by any reader of quality fiction.

Profile Image for Lata.
3,434 reviews180 followers
March 28, 2018
Not a plot-driven novel. Rather, it's a series of vignettes ranging over several years, related by the main character, who is part of a family of werewolves. Though, really, the main character is waiting to go through his first change into a werewolf. In the meantime, he, his aunt Libby and Uncle Darren move constantly, always trying to find a place to make some money and stay under the radar and safe. The three live on the edges of whatever small town they're in, and the main character spends much of the book cataloguing werewolf behaviour, while he waits and wonders why he hasn't turned yet. I hadn't realized before I began reading that there would not be much plot, so was a little frustrated by this. On the other hand, there is plenty of character stuff in this book, and an interesting and violent take on werewolf families and behaviours.
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,599 followers
November 18, 2021
This book is a wonderful depiction of what it might look like if werewolves were really walking around in the 21st century. Bloody, desperate, fearful, primitive.

This book wanders in time and location, alternating between the present storyline and other vignette-like chapters capturing a single moment, experience. In a non-linear timeline, we watch our main character, our narrator who is never named, as he grows up between the ages of 8 to 16 as he yearns to shift and change like his aunt and uncle but is unsure if he has the genes to do so.

This book is ENGAGING. I was immediately invested in this little family of werewolves and was surprised how attached I was to them by the end. This book has all the blood and gore and horror and werewolf talk, but it also a story about growing up and the REAL fear that brings.

Since the timeline is all over the place, this book became much less of a plot-driven story and much more of a character-driven story. And the way the characters are explored, especially our main character, is the real star of the show here and I loved every moment of it.

This book evoked every emotion for me. I came for the gore and werewolves and left with heartbreak.
Profile Image for Mindi.
776 reviews264 followers
October 25, 2018
I've been putting off this review because I want to make sure I can articulate just how much I loved this book and how well it's written. I'm still not sure I can do it justice. However, I now know that I love Stephen Graham Jones's writing on the same level as Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace. All three have a very distinct voice, and I adore them all. I'll read anything and everything Jones publishes, and I know he has quite an extensive back catalog, so I need to get to work.

This novel. Before this year, I think I had read maybe one werewolf novel? I'm still not entirely sure, but let me say right now, that this book is pretty much the only one you need to read. Jones makes you believe that werewolves are real. All of the detail he puts into this novel makes werewolves seem completely plausible. And the structure is brilliant. Once again the writing is unmistakably Jones, and it's so perfect for this story. I feel like Jones deeply understands people who live on the fringes of society. In his world, werewolves are one step beyond those human fringes. Forced to move constantly due to their basic existence, the small family of werewolves in this book are never able to set down roots and become comfortable or have anything meaningful in their lives other than each other. And it's that fierce love and protection of each other that makes these characters and this story so incredible.

I buddy read this one with my friend Sadie, and I'm so glad we got to experience it together. This is a coming of age novel about mythical creatures that reads like a true story. It's fantastic. Read this one.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,885 followers
November 24, 2021
I RECEIVED AN ARC FROM THE PUBLISHER. THANK YOU.

My Review
: This novel was born from a short story that Author Stephen collected in After the People Lights Have Gone Off (q.v.). It is a take on the werewolf legend that is, not to beat around the bush, completely and utterly his own and therefore exciting, involving, and deeply relatable. Like his fiction is in general.

What makes this so deeply and deliciously devourable is the way it takes us into the misery of being Othered in our modern Murruhkuh. There's the level of supernatural Otherness, of course; but as a result of this inborn, intrinsic Othering, the people who have it in them are forced to the lowest and least desirable options for survival: Migrant workers are the base of the modern food chain and are treated accordingly. That is, as the slaves they are in all but name. And, if our country doesn't pull its head out of its collective ass, things are about to get a whole lot worse for the Othered.

Different post...sorry. The blizzard coming has me edgy.

What Mongrels does that other werewolf fiction does not do is to make the quotidian decisions of life, of adolescence in particular...what it takes to have a significant other, for example:
Just when I thought I’d figured out what made a girlfriend happy, what would make one stay, I would do something wrong again and that would be that.

“Something wrong, like, I don’t know, like eating their pet goat?” Libby said, without looking over from the game show glowing all our faces light blue.

into the fictional universe's center. That will indeed make a lass's heart colder and her mouth set harder towards one, indeed...and while I'm here, let me note that Author Stephen's choice to use our PoV character without a name (or without one we know) but a shifting series of labels, eg "the reporter", makes his adolescence all the more touchingly obvious and honest. He's himself, he doesn't need a name inside his head; but he's trying on new identites, seeing which ones might fit. Yet everyone else has names, just like our own internal monologues give them. It's another technique to give the adolescent within the reader a strong and lasting handhold into the shifting (!) and unstable reality of not belonging. Of Being Other, being Othered, and knowing in your very deepest parts that you are, in fact, Other.

Not allowing others' Othering of you to take, to resist it internally, to make your Other from a label into an Identity, is one of the central struggles of adolescence. I know because I was Othered by gayness. I know because I watched my entire peer group choose up sides in the culture wars of the 1970s and 1980s, and I was never in the majority. And thus it is that, at *ahem*ty-plus years of age, that I can find myself in this story of a werewolf whose membership in even his birth community is not assured...he hasn't fully made it. He is just...hangin' there.

If blood and gore are hard-pass material for you, by no means should you try this read...or any other Stephen Graham Jones read. If you're thinking this story will scare you and keep you awake, I don't think you need to worry. The atmosphere of dread is situational. It's a spice used to make this a rare and precious dish not another Wednesday-night stew. I think the most important question to ask yourself before picking it up is, "how much longer do I want to ignore how many wonderful stories there are that I think I won't care about?" Break your cycle here. Learn about the reality of Othering and its huge personal and societal costs without being smacked around by Facts. Let the Truth work her mystical wiles on you instead.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,509 reviews104 followers
March 8, 2017
I have read SGJ before and really liked his style, but this one just wasn't for me. The writing was choppy and hard to follow. While the premise was promising and the characters were mildly interesting, it ultimately fell flat for me. Bummer.
Profile Image for Frank Errington.
738 reviews56 followers
May 13, 2016
Review copy

Mongrels is a completely different kind of werewolf story, told from the point of view of a teenage werewolf who has yet to shift for the first time. In addition to facing the same issues teens everywhere must deal with, this one faces the uncertainty of when, or even if, he will ever change.

I love a good opening line and this one's a gem. "My grandfather used to tell me he was a werewolf." Tell me more.

Good literary horror is something to be appreciated, and when you combine that with werewolves, it's time to relax in your favorite reading chair and dig in. Mongrels is not perfect book, but it is awfully good. Told in a series of vignettes, I found the work to be a bit disjointed, but that certainly did not keep me from enjoying this interesting take on werewolves.

There are some terribly original concepts floated in this saga, not the least of which is the idea of werewolf pee as a pesticide. When you read the book, this will make perfect sense.

Recommended.

Mongrels, published by William Morrow Books, is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and various audio formats.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels and six story collections, so far. He has received an number of awards. Raised in West Texas. Stephen now lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and children.
Profile Image for Amanda.
144 reviews16 followers
June 1, 2022
Just your normal coming of age boy waiting to become a werewolf story. My new favorite werewolf book. This book has more heart and humanity than most.
Profile Image for Tracy Robinson.
465 reviews140 followers
August 30, 2019
“It feels like whispers. It sounds like smiling. It smells like teeth” – Stephen Graham Jones, Mongrels

At once a book about a family of werewolves and a discussion of growing as “other” in our society, Mongrels is a compelling read. I have had this book on my shelf for a little while and I decided to pick it up after it was selected for the Summer Scares library program developed by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal.

A prolific author, college professor, bicycle enthusiast, and more, Jones has an extensive back list that delves into a variety of genres and sub-genres. If the two books I’ve read from him are any indication, his approach and literary style in regards to familiar topics are quite refreshing. I previously read All the Beautiful Sinners, a book which follows a brutal serial killer. It hit all the usual notes but in such a way that felt more real, more present.

This brings me to Mongrels. Jones’ unique take on a werewolf story is everything I wanted. Now, full disclosure, I’ve only read one other “werewolf” novel (you can see my thoughts on Carnivorous Lunar Activities here) so I make no claims as an expert on wolf-y fiction. The horror is present both in the lives of this family and in the more traditional genre sense. I really dig the way Jones is able to seamlessly blend real life with fiction in a way that has me genuinely believing in werewolves at this point. This dichotomy of “normal” life experiences and werewolf lore does more than just entertain, it is an examination.

“Werewolves can feel that kind of constant attention. It’s a special radar we’re born with, that gets more and more sensitive every year.”

I believe this duality of werewolf and human experiences provides Jones with an excellent vehicle to discuss otherness. Those who fall outside or who stay outside of the normative social and/or cultural influence. Is this family of wolves meant to be a metaphor for the way in which those who are “other”, either by their race, gender, or economic circumstance, hold on to who they truly are? I think so. Again, this is masterfully done as the reader is drawn into the lives of the humans/wolves. It is organically woven into the story, just as it is in life.

“There was no panic, no fear. This was like falling deeper into himself.”

Jones’ writing and storytelling ability are masterful. I’m looking forward to reading the backlist of his titles just to experience his voice as well as to see what other journeys await me. Mongrels is one I will definitely revisit – I loved it.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
975 reviews227 followers
October 23, 2019
"Werewolves, we're tough, yeah, we're made for fighting, made for hunting, can kill all night long and then some. But cars, cars are four thousand pounds of jagged metal, and, pushing a hundred miles per hour now, the world a blur of regret--there's only one result, really.

And, if a bad-luck cop sees you slide past the billboard he's hiding behind, well, then it's on, right? If he stops you, you're going to chew through him in two bites, which, instead of making the problem go away, will just multiply it, on the radio.

So you run.

It's the main thing werewolves are made for. It's what we do best of all."


Last year I read my first Stephen Graham Jones book, Mapping the Interior. After just that initial experience, I knew his writing style was one that I was absolutely smitten with. That I most certainly needed to get my hands on more of his work, because goddamn. What a brilliant storyteller! After having read Mongrels, I can say with 100% certainty - SGJ is a new favorite of mine!

The story follows an unnamed narrator and his dysfunctional family. His grandpa, aunt Libby and uncle Darren are left to raise him after his mother dies during childbirth. Terribly tragic, yes, but unfortunately not unheard of. Especially when you are born into a family of werewolves.

After his grandfather dies, the three are left to fend for themselves. They move every few months, travelling from town to town in the American South, roaming in secluded areas, working whatever jobs they can, never allowing themselves to get too comfortable in any one place. After all, werewolves tend to attract trouble.

Always on the run, the young narrator anticipates his transformation. Unlike many others in his position, he is excited to "wolf out". He longs to join the clan, to feel like he fits in. With his upcoming 16th birthday, the timeline for whether or not he has the genes to transform is quickly approaching.

"I turned back to the fire and held my palms out, waiting for the heat, and I remembered what I saw on a nature show once: that dogs' eyes can water, sure, but they can't cry. They're not built for it.

Neither are werewolves."


There are certain gems that find you at exactly the right time. This book? Oof. It touched me more than I could ever expect. It was similar to The Girl With All the Gifts for me, in that regard. The kind of books that reinvent the mythology surrounding creatures that aren't quite human, blending modern ideas with older lore. They are also two books that just came out of nowhere and blindsided me, becoming instant favorites! Mongrels is, without a doubt, the best werewolf book that I've ever read!

It's brimming with darkness - visceral, graphic violence; immense beauty - the genuine, raw love within this family; and a healthy dose of humor - scat collectors, french fries, deadly pantyhose, masking canine breath with mints.. among other things! At it's core, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story not unlike Boy's Life. But with werewolves!

When I wasn't reading, I couldn't stop thinking about Mongrels. It's gloriously addictive, clever, poignant and compassionate. It stuck its claws in, knocked me fucking sideways and completely destroyed me. Over and over again.
Profile Image for Benoit Lelièvre.
Author 8 books128 followers
April 28, 2016
I liked this novel, but I think it would've worked without the werewolf theme. It's weird. I've read a review on this book by Bob Pastorella stating it was one of the best werewolf novels ever written and I believe him, it's just that there might be an entire level of meaning I just didn't get from the book.

That said, I thought MONGRELS was a solid and original coming-of-age novel, because the werewolf angle is about growing up different and shaped by a strong culture. The family dynamic of the young narrator with his aunt and uncle were I thought as moving and pertinent as anything that was written as a coming-of-age in itself.

I would've probably went completely crazy over this novel if I was 17 years old and I think many 17 year olds will. I ended up liking it, but I might be past my vampires/zombies/werewolves phase. Not ghosts though. Ghosts are timeless.
Profile Image for Jamie Stewart.
Author 10 books156 followers
April 25, 2019
As I read this story I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, in that both works could be considers novel’s or collections of short stories. Mongrels is at its heart a coming of age story about an untraditional family who are constantly moving across the USA, the fact that they are a family of werewolves is merely colouring on the story. Don’t get me wrong the werewolf lore is handle well and readers are provided with multiple enjoyable stories, which I won’t spoil here, but the story at its heart is about family struggling to survive in America while raising a child. The author handles this with a light touch providing a insightful, sometimes funny and sometimes touching read. I highly recommend this!
Profile Image for Beverley Lee.
Author 20 books252 followers
November 29, 2021
I'll begin by saying werewolves are not really my thing. By now you'll know I'm firmly Team Vampire. But this one has so many great reviews and I kept seeing it do the rounds on Bookstagram, and I already knew by reading The Only Good Indians that Stephen Graham Jones can spin a wonderful story.

And I'm not going to launch into a description of what happens, there are plenty of reviews already circulating, but I will say, without question, that this one captured my heart. At its core a coming of age story, with complex family dynamics, you can't help but be catapulted along by each chapter. The lore is so well crafted, so believable, that you begin to wonder how much truth is between the pages.

It's fresh and bloody and drenched in the kind of detail that makes these characters leap off the page. And one more thing I loved, the main protagonist is never named, something I only realised midway through the book.

If you love fierce and protective family love, along with the story of a boy born on the fringes of society and trying desperately to find his way in it, then you could do no better than pick this one up.
Profile Image for Damien Angelica Walters.
Author 109 books554 followers
June 9, 2016
This is my second favorite read of 2016 thus far. It's so much more than a werewolf story. It's about the strength of family, about being an outsider, about trying to stay safe in a world that will kill you because of who you are.
Profile Image for Barry.
Author 11 books83 followers
May 6, 2016
Stephen Graham Jones has romped through a dizzying variety of genres in his novels and short fiction. Drama, crime, horror, science fiction, bizarro, and sometimes a strange mash-up of any or all of the above—the list of his chameleonic literary contributions goes on and on, with the common denominator being that he does it all really, really well.

In his latest novel, Mongrels, Mr. Jones takes a well-worn supernatural trope—the werewolf—and subsequently weaves a coming-of-age tale that is powerfully unique and highly entertaining.

Read the rest of my view on New York Journal of Books:

http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-...
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
1,959 reviews2,675 followers
February 7, 2019
3.0 Stars
This was a well written novel with an interesting interpretation of the werewolf lore. I personally did not connect with the narrative because I tend to enjoy more plot driven stories. The audiobook narration was good, but this simple was my kind of horror story.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
857 reviews120 followers
June 25, 2018
4.5 Stars

Review:
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!

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes gritty werewolf portrayals, coming of age stories, flawed characters, and touching family relationships.

Original Review @ Metaphors and Moonlight

---------------------

Initial Thoughts:
It was messed up and beautiful and brutal and touching and I loved it. 4.5 stars. Full review soon.
Profile Image for Audra (ouija.reads).
726 reviews248 followers
February 22, 2019
(full review on my blog here: http://shelfstalker.weebly.com/shelf-...)

There’s nothing new to say about werewolves. Silver bullets, pentagrams on the palm, sudden urges for rare steak, howling, full moon transformations, bloodthirsty beasts rampaging about. We’ve seen it all, right?

Well, think again. As Jones, veteran speculative fiction writer, shows, there’s plenty more to tell, plenty more waiting to burst through to the surface. And some of what we think we know might need to be rewritten.

Of course you don’t believe in werewolves, right? Why would you? But maybe all those stories your grandpa told you weren’t just stories. Maybe he wasn’t just going senile when he talked about shifting and chasing after chickens, coming home bloody-jawed but satisfied. You always kept him talking because it seemed to make him happy, but what happens when all those stories turn out to be true?

Mongrels follows a young unnamed narrator and his aunt Libby and uncle Darren across the southern United States. They don’t have much except for each other and their secret: theirs is a family of wolves. Our narrator is a late bloomer and might never turn into a wolf, though he desperately wants to become a werewolf in order to fit into his little family. He sure as hell doesn’t think he’ll ever fit in anywhere else. In that sense, this is a coming-of-age story more than any other type of story. It’s a boy trying to figure out who he is, where he fits in the world, and dealing with his family and more embarrassingly, his body.

If there really are werewolves wandering around in the twenty-first century, I suspect they fit more into Jones’s model. Moving around a lot, staying away from other people, doing odd jobs, getting mixed up with the cops a little too frequently. Our narrator and his family try to stay out of trouble, but it seems to find them anyways. Finding out that he is a werewolf is really just the beginning. The rest of the book is finding out how to deal with it and keep it all a secret.

The book is really about finding a way to be comfortable with who you are and who your family is, and then being proud of it, even if you can’t share it with the world. What is it that Libby and Darren are really running away from every time they move on? Every time they cause enough trouble so that they have to move on? Wolves don’t seem able to form lasting attachments, but there sure are wounds in their past that cut deep and haven’t healed yet.

In true Jones fashion, this book gets crazy, this book gets weird (werewolves are valuable for something I bet you’ll never guess), but mostly, this book gets under your skin—in a good way. Like how werewolf hair sucks back in, it’ll get inside of you and leave pieces of itself behind.

Profile Image for Ellen Gail.
826 reviews369 followers
December 20, 2022
That’s how it is with werewolves. You have something, then you just have the story of it.

Mongrels is a haunting, shape-shifter of a novel. It's wryly funny and heartbreaking and violent. Much the way SGJ's The Only Good Indians did, it's book that transcends, or perhaps descends, packing in layer after layer of subtext. It is a nasty, bone-crunching horror while also being a deeply felt commentary on family, aging, and folk-lore. It's an intimate look at oral storytelling and family tradition, that also offers thievery, road trips, and even a bear!

I mean, what else could I want?
Profile Image for Latasha.
1,257 reviews360 followers
June 2, 2019
I struggled with this one. It was ok. I'd give this author another try.
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