Mongrels – Stephen Graham Jones

A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy, whose family lives on the fringe 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, mixed blood, 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 narrow escapes–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 finally 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.  I just finished Mongrels a little bit ago, and the urge to pick it back up & start it all over again is real. This is the first Stephen Graham Jones book I’ve read, and I am honestly blown away. This is a fucking gorgeous novel, and an easy top read of the year for me!

Mongrels is that rare kind of book that isn’t very heavily plotted, and still has you compulsively turning the pages. It’s a story about a family of werewolves…or rather, it’s a bunch of stories about a family of werewolves. It’s narrated by a boy who is never named. He’s also yet to actually “wolf out”, which is a nagging source of anxiety for him. He & his uncle Darren and his aunt Libby live a rather nomadic lifestyle. Being a werewolf means inevitably, something goes wrong, and you’re on the move again.

The story bounces all over the place in terms of chronology, but again, there’s not some complicated plot you’re trying to follow. You’re just reading about this family, and falling in love with them more & more as the book goes on. It’s a coming-of-age story, and really, it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s funny, clever, and very thoughtfully written. At the heart of Mongrels is the intense love between these three characters. Nothing comes easy for this family. They have real struggles, and live a life that’s not only somewhat dangerous, but is frequently outside the law. But they just keep on keeping on, and looking out for one another with, well, a werewolf’s ferocity.

As far as the werewolf side of things? This book is FULL of cool & weird facts about being a werewolf! Things you’d never consider in a million years, explained in full detail…Stephen Graham Jones seems to create his own werewolf mythology, and has a lot of fun doing it! And I mean, there’s definitely some gnarly moments, but this is…a very different kind of werewolf/horror novel.

I really can’t recommend Mongrels enough. This is a beautifully written & heartfelt novel, and I think it would appeal to so many different kinds of readers. I remember when I read Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (the first book of his I read) and I was just completely over the fucking moon about it, and so excited to find an author who had SO MANY books available! Reading Mongrels has given me a similar feeling, because Stephen Graham Jones has a pretty extensive back catalogue & I’ll probably be dropping a couple of those in the old Amazon cart soon!

Although it’s about a family of werewolves, Mongrels is an intensely human story. This is a beautiful & bittersweet novel, written in an incredibly unique & authentic voice. An absolute treasure of a novel!

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