PUBLISHER: Simon Pulse
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 3 STARS
PUBLICATION DATE: 05/07/12
This book is released as Hemlock outside of the UK.
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered. Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's Killer: A white werewolf. Lupine Syndrome -- the werewolf virus - is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control and the Trackers are determined to stop those with Lupine Syndrome, at any cost. Unwilling to work with the brutal Trackers, but desperately wanting to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. But the deeper she delves into the mystery behind Amy's death, the more secrets she discovers lurking in the shadows of Hemlock. Secrets that should have been left untold. Secrets that will change her life forever.
I really liked the initial premise of this story; supernatural elements mixed with a murder investigation, but the actual story didn't really read like this. The blurb does fit it but makes it sound a lot more exciting than it is. I didn't really dislike the book, there wasn't a time when I didn't feel like reading through to the end, but I felt that it didn't take enough time to initially introduce the characters, and because of this I was regularly confused as to which of her many men Mac was talking to.
As a narrator and main character Mac is ok. And really, just ok. I didn't really care that much what happened to her. She seemed to spend a lot of time being blind to everything that was actually going on around her, especially the affection of the two main men in her life, Jason and Kyle. She jumps to conclusions that I felt were way ahead of the narrative, like going straight to the idea that her friend's girlfriend must be pregnant because she looked a bit bedraggled. I didn't feel like I had enough context about the couple to guess it (whether it is true or not) or to even look back and see the clues. I suppose what I mean is that I felt there were parts of the story that were missing, or unecessary.
The Trackers gave the story a dystopian overtone, but it still felt more supernatural on the whole. I wanted it to focus more heavily on the interesting dystopian themes that it touches on but it didn't. It stayed more on the teen angst/romance which really bored me. I wanted to be more challenged. It touched on the fact that the original group of Trackers were a breakaway group of White Supremacists, and there are mentions of racism and race in other places too. There is also the fact that Mac is the only one of her friends that isn't a Trust Fund kid. She's technically an orphan from the other side of the tracks, but this doesn't really get explored either. You could argue it's because money doesn't matter and their all equal, but it makes a point to say that the rich parents wanted a separate school from the poorer families. I really felt there were so many more interesting things that could have been explore alongside it being a coming-of-age/first love story.
I also wished that it had spent more time focussing on Amy's murder. The bits where they were learning things about the town, the Trackers and Amy's life were much more interesting that knowing anything about the werewolves. It only speeds up towards the end where we get a little closer to solving the puzzle. I really liked the inclusion of having Amy haunt Mac's dreams, and even though Mac understood that Amy was a figment of her imagination she very rarely uses that to understand what her subconscious has already noticed. This would have made it much more interesting for me.
I know I've been a little down on this book, but it's only because I saw so much potential in it. I know it is the first in the trilogy and I have high hopes that it will only get better and stronger. And don't get me wrong, I did enjoy many parts of the story and for me there was one brilliant aspect about it - its brutal. Very brutal. It's very visual and the description of the sound of werewolves shifting made me almost want to look away as it was slightly sickening. That was pretty cool.
As I said, the main reason I was attracted to the story was the mix of a murder investigation and the supernatural. With this almost completely solved by the end of the first book, I hope that there will be something else to catch my attention in the next book. I gave this one 3 stars because I liked it, but I felt it could have been so much more. As a good story I still think people will enjoy it.
For fans of: Linger - Maggie Stiefvater