Eighteen-year-old rock star Sam Lee isn’t like other girls. She’s the super-talented bass player and songwriter for an all-girl indie band and an incurable loner. Then one night after a concert in Central Park, she’s attacked by a wild dog.
Suddenly, this long-time vegetarian is craving meat–the bloodier, the better. Sam finds herself with an unbelievable secret and no one she trusts to share it. And so begin the endless lies to cover up the hairy truth…
When a new girl gang appears in the city–with claws and paws–Sam suspects there’s a connection to her own inner beast. Trapped in a tug-of-war between her animal and human selves, forced to choose between the guy who sparked her carnal appetite and the one who makes her feel like a normal teenage girl, Sam has to unravel the mysteries of the werewolf world before her bandmates, her mother, and the media catch up to her.
Thank you to Penguin Canada and Netgalley for this advance readers copy.
I adored Emily Pohl-Weary’s novel A Girl Like Sugar. I remember grabbing the book after Weary was a guest lecturer in one of my classes at York wherein she discussed zine culture in Toronto, but also promoted some of her non-zine works. I remember being hooked to the narrative in Sugar, and it easily became a book that I passed around to friends.
Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl is not that book, but it’s a surprisingly fun story about identity with a quirky cast of characters and a strong, likeable heroine. Sam is a bassist-turned-werewolf who has to cope with her new found abilities. Trying to weave her new identity, Sam struggles to accept that her life will never be what it once was, and chooses to try and embrace her curse.
I loved the paranormal side of this story, especially when looking at how Sam works towards accepting herself. It was interesting to see how Weary was able to make a strong lead with identity issues be someone who teens/new adults could perhaps relate to (even without the paranormal elements). Sam’s very likeable and she wears her flaws on sleeve, something I always appreciate in a protagonist. Anytime Sam was contemplating herself and the world that surrounds her she is such an insightful person. She truly was a wonderful character to engage with.
Oddly though, when the novel was about Sam’s night life, male troubles and not werewolf fun-times, the story lost its speed for me. I had a harder time falling into the normalcy Sam would try to achieve in her daily life. It’s important to the story, but often her daily exploration wasn’t very tedious to read about, especially when a lot of it was related to her desperate needs for caffeine. I get it, you like coffee, it’s cool. These moments of tedious detail were tricky to enjoy, and it made me want to just go back to the narrative and mystery behind Sam’s new found abilities.
One thing I did love however, was her bonding experiences with a lot of the women in the story. The relationships she forged are beautifully woven into the narrative and I feel like Pohl-Weary does a great job of getting us to care about this group of women. This story has such empowering female characters, which for me, is always something I want in a story. I want to cheer for the characters and feel their highs and lows, and I think Pohl-Weary captures all the emotion of feeling lost and being different, yet finding strength in those differences to make one feel less strange.
While the detail and pacing were the drawback for me, I think Emily Pohl-Weary is a talented storyteller. I had a lot of fun reading this novel, but I won’t lie that it didn’t make me crave a reread of A Girl Like Sugar. Overall, I think the female cast of characters is fabulous, the writing has a lot of spunk to it, and for those who enjoy books like the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, there’s a lot here to enjoy.