Author: Kathleen Peacock
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Release Date: May 2012 (expected)
Summary: 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—also known as 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.
Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.
☆: 4/5 – A great YA paranormal mystery debut!
Review: Wow. This book had all kinds of twists and turns in pretty much every single department that it kept my interest the whole time. “Hemlock” and its look at lupinism isn’t quite new (there have been books about a werewolf-inducing virus before) but the way Peacock uses it is very original, along with the mystery seeds the entire plot with. You never know what exactly to expect next, and you have to pay attention, because “Hemlock” will twist you just as Peacock twists her characters into something new and awesome.
I think the main issue I had with the plot was the eventual kind-of-love-triangle that ended up happening with the MC and her two best friends. Now, it’s not like she’s forced to choose between romances, but between friends. It’s a she-likes-him-but-his-bff-likes-her sort of deal, and while I’m glad it didn’t turn into a clearly defined typical YA love triangle, I still wasn’t too pleased with it appearing nonetheless. However, Peacock isn’t afraid to torture her characters and isn’t afraid to go into some of the darkest parts of human history to resurrect them within her story (concentration/internment camps, anyone?) to achieve some of the best payoffs that I’ve seen in stories with love triangles (or pseudo-love triangles) so far. Mac is best friends with Kyle, Jason, and Amy – but Amy dates Jason, is murdered, and Jason has feelings for Mac. It’s insane. And yet it’s organized chaos that was wrought very well for a debut – we’re left hanging in terms of all of the feelings that the characters have with one another, all tinted in one way or another by Amy’s murder as well as the haunting white werewolf and what it brought about (mini-dystopia!) within their small town.
That, and Mac talks about how her life has “turned into/should be a show on the CW network” after the kind-of-triangle really firmly forms. I was howling with laughter at that, and it redeemed the use of the YA triangle trope because Peacock isn’t afraid to make fun of herself within her own writing. I love that, and I wish more authors did that.
Peacock has tension on every single page. This is hard to achieve – very hard, and it takes a lot of work to make sure it all flows together and not have all of the elements clashing with each other every second. I definitely have to give it to her – she pulled it off, and pulled it off really well. Mac is never allowed a moment to feel safe, to feel sane, or to feel like she has a positive future ahead of her. While that might be depressing in real life, it makes for some very enjoyable and awesome reading. Peacock has created a very believable alternate world were LS (lupine syndrome) is a major disease and the government had “the werewolves come out of the closet” (one of my favorite lines in the book), forcing a mini-dystopia to come about, where you’re urged to inform on your neighbors, lovers, siblings, parents, and friends if you even suspect they might be infected. It’s a very, very dark place in human history that Peacock revisits with setting up the internment camps for the infected, and I really wanted more information on them – so here’s hoping that in book 2 she’ll give us more details. The worldbuilding is pretty tight and well-rounded since everything is taking place in Hemlock, the small town itself becomes its own dystopia within a larger dystopia, and all of the characters, by being related to Amy and her murder in one way or another are very skillfully woven back into the world to create a closed system (to use a scientific term) filled with tension.
Also, by revealing parts of Amy (the different pieces of her that Mac never got to see while she was alive and they were bffs) helped complete and make her feel like a living girl. A living girl who had a lot of drama in her life, but a real girl nonetheless. The way the breadcrumbs of information were dropped every so often was wonderful, and not just in use with developing Amy’s character, but with developing the main arc as a whole. It was a really good way to develop this plot, and it generally flowed really well.
Final verdict? Definitely give it a read. While it didn’t blow me away, it was still really awesome, and I will definitely be reading books 2 and 3 (if there is a book 3?) in the future. “Hemlock” is out on May 8, 2012 in North America, so be sure to to go to your local library or bookstore and pick up a copy then. Definitely recommended!