CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 11 . . . . November 16, 2012
Socially inept 17-year-old guy gets a scholarship to study in Paris. Meets somewhat provocative girl, but she already has a boyfriend. However they appear to be on the verge of breaking up. Maybe the year in Paris will provide more than an education in French for Connor.
This all sounds like a typical coming-of-age young adult plot until readers meet Connor’s host family and find out that Amara and Arden, a tattoo artist and her boyfriend, are werewolves. And Connor’s new friends, Madison and Josh, may not be just the army brats they seem to be.
In her first young adult novel, Kat Kruger creates an imaginary but entirely believable world where ordinary citizens and werewolves co-exist. Kruger’s werewolves are of two types: the born and the bitten, and there is an ongoing battle between the groups. Born werewolves take the form of elegant wolves. Those who are bitten become werewolves cursed to transform into half-human, half-beast monsters.
Connor meets werewolves of both sorts and also finds out that he is being sought by Henri Boguet, a scientist who is using DNA and genetic studies in order to find some sort of vaccine which will ‘cure’ werewolves, thus wiping out the species forever. Is this a good thing? Connor is confused and has no idea whether to trust the scientist and his entourage or to maintain his friendship with the werewolves who have befriended and helped him since he arrived in Paris. His sense of loyalty shifts from one side to the other and back again as he learns more about both groups.
The Paris in which Kruger sets her novel is not the ”Eiffel Tower and Montmartre” Paris usually envisioned by tourists. Instead, she takes readers to parts of the city that are very real but which form a more appropriate backdrop for the dark action of the book. Connor and his friends find themselves at a party at La Pleine Lune, a club which seems to be situated in the sewers below the city. At other times, the action moves to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, a well-known if somewhat spooky Parisian landmark which is home to the graves of many French celebrities. Thus the “City of Light” has a dark side, and this alter-ego is the side which is home to the night and werewolf teeth of the title.
Connor, the protagonist of the novel, is likeable and believable, despite being socially inept, rather gullible, and somewhat nerdy. On the surface, Madison is a street-smart and tough young woman while her friend Josh seems to be merely her love-struck counterpart. But Kruger has some surprises up her novelist’s sleeve, and these two are not as they appear. Connor’s host family, werewolves Amara and Arden, are unusual, to say the least, and Arden, in particular, seems moody and just on the edge of being murderously dangerous. However this superficial assessment also changes as the action of the novel moves along.
Kruger presents her readers with a novel which does not easily fit into any category, and, if the book has a weakness, perhaps this effort to ‘do too much’ is it. Readers are introduced to the world of the paranormal, learning about werewolf history and lore. The book can also be read as an urban fantasy. The character of Henri Boguet adds notes of science fiction to the mix as he attempts to use scientific techniques to put an end once and for all to werewolves. The story is also an action-packed adventure with romantic overtones, a coming-of-age theme and some teenage angst thrown in for good measure. Kruger juggles all of these stylistic balls very well, and the result is a young adult novel which will have wide appeal.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.