April 16, 2012


by Kathleen Peacock
Katherine Tegen Books (Imprint of HarperCollins)
416 pp.
Ages 14+
Available May 8, 2012
(Reviewed from Advance Reader's Edition)

Since the werewolves came out of the mythological closet twelve years earlier, all communities, including Hemlock, have been dealing with accepting those infected with lupine syndrome and the ramifications of their condition.  In Hemlock, which has been home to Mac Dobson since her father, Hank, abandoned her there with her cousin, Tess, three years ago, werewolves have not been a concern.  That is, not until multiple attacks, some fatal, occur within several weeks and culminate with the murder of Amy, Mac's best friend and the granddaughter of Senator John Walsh.  With evidence pointing to a white-haired werewolf, Senator Walsh desperately enlists the services of Brandon Derby and his vigilante Trackers.  Believing that all werewolves are dangerous to regs (uninfected humans), the Trackers, a civilian group usually given free rein by the authorities, violently haul away suspected werewolves and torment anyone who gets in their way.

While the Trackers aggressively pursue infected humans for internment in rehabilitation camps, Mac, her close friend Kyle, and Amy's boyfriend, Jason, all berate themselves for not being there for Amy the night she was killed.  But, each deals differently in the aftermath of her death.  Mac has cryptic discussions with Amy in terrifying nightmares.  Kyle wants to be there for Mac and get closer to her, but he has to deal with his ex, Heather, who hates Mac and keeps demanding Kyle's attention.  And, although Jason's initial reaction is to find comfort in alcohol and outlandish behaviour, his reaction becomes extreme when he decides to join the Trackers. 

As with any great plot, there are secrets withheld from the reader, but it seems everyone is keeping secrets from Mac.  When secrets are revealed, intermittently and usually unceremoniously (as most secrets are), Mac begins to realize that her history affects how she deals with others.  Having a mother who left before her first birthday and living with a father of dubious principles who also abandons her has left Mac reluctant to share too much of herself.  But, she has learned to be watchful, strategic and forbearing, all of which help her make some very astute determinations about Brandon Derby's motives, about Jason's attitudes, and about Amy's death.  As the narrator and central character around which all subplots revolve, Mac carries the story (although all other characters are strong enough to help with this charge).  She is neither naive nor weak, but she is incredulous when she learns more about Kyle, Jason, Amy, and others.  Kathleen Peacock, a new author from New Brunswick (Hemlock is her debut novel), does an exemplary job of developing Mac's voice into that of a bright seventeen-year-old who diligently reflects on the continuously changing circumstances, including the very nature of her friends and friendships.  Nothing Mac decides to do is unbelievable to the reader.  She attacks new dilemmas with honesty and resolve, and willingly accepts the need to amend her actions.

The horror of the werewolf attacks and of the Trackers' vigilantism is tempered with several romances that thankfully stray from typical boy-girl dating.  Surprisingly these budding loves seem completely realistic considering how many young people (and older ones too) are reluctant to share their true feelings.  Rather than comedic misunderstandings feeding the plot, it is the uncertainly and fear of rejection that allow relationships to progress, albeit haphazardly.

Kathleen Peacock makes Mac a true hero.  While Mac, with a little help from her friends, discovers the truth of Amy's death, her story does not end there.  The epilogue, which reveals what Mac feels she must do next in order to evolve into her true self, not the abandoned girl of her childhood, sets up the sequel to Hemlock perfectly.  Personally, I look forward to this next phase in Mac's journey, especially with regards to how Mac, Kyle and Jason resolve their feelings.  Sadly, the official release date for Hemlock is still a few weeks away, and there is no firm release date or even title for the sequel.  Luckily, I'm confident that I'll appreciate the direction Kathleen Peacock will take Mac and her cohorts when the second book of the trilogy is available.

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