July 22, 2013

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl

by Emily Pohl-Weary
Razorbill
978-0-67006-640-7
304 pp.
Ages 13+
September, 2013

Forget about any kind of ordinariness for Sam Lee.  At eighteen years old, she's one third of the popular band, The Cream Puffs, and their primary songwriter too. Along with their bad-girl lead singer, Jules, and sexy, bookish drummer Malika, The Cream Puffs are the hip band in New York City.  But Sam's life is not one that fans envision for a rock musician, especially one that performs with so much power on stage.  She eschews the parties and the fans, rides her bike at night, and lives on the top floor of a converted pickle factory that she owns.  And, except for crushing on Harris Walls, who is animating a video for the band and who has a gorgeous girlfriend, Sam is considered the loner tomboy (although there was a large guy who kept staring at her during a concert and tried to talk to her afterwards who obviously didn't think so).

But, after taking a nasty fall while careening through Central Park on her way home from the concert, Sam is jumped by a large dog, and then rescued from it by another dog that takes a gash out of her forearm.  Except for a voracious appetite, unquenchable thirst and a slight fever, Sam experiences no frightening symptoms but she goes to Emerg to get checked out.  But, with evidence of the bite gone and her status as a rock musician known, Sam gets out of there promptly when the medical staff start talking about testing for drugs and a psych assessment. 

Things go from bad to worse, or weird to bizarre, at their photo and video shoot, when Sam cannot eat enough roast beef and turkey sandwiches and gets aggressive with Jules, definitely odd for the introverted vegetarian.  She's sweating through her custom-made shirt, annoying their director and she can detect Harris' scent! Insisting that she is sick, Sam takes off. On her ride, she is followed by Marlon, an art school friend of Harris', who offers her beef jerky and a mega-water bottle and claims that he just wants to make sure she's okay, knowing what she's going through.  Finally, freakish dreams, messages from her nasty neighbours about her big dog (?), attacks by girl-gangs dressed as dogs, and a fan photo of her devouring a whole BBQ chicken help Marlon persuade Sam that she needs his help.

The title may give away what has happened to Sam, but it cannot even allude to the multitude of subplots involving Marlon's brother Owen, mutated werewolves, other supernaturals, and Sam's worries about revealing herself to her friends and the public.  And, of course, the love triangle of Sam, Marlon and Harris.

Emily Pohl-Weary's writing is evocative, ensuring the reader truly understands the depth of Sam's physical and emotional transformation, and her characterizations are explicit and fully revealing, reading like exposés from any teen magazine.  Emily Pohl-Weary (website here) takes Sam from a talented young woman who works in the social realm of music performance but prefers to live in a private world, to a wolf girl who finally finds the freedom to be herself.  While not an easy transformation, particularly if there's some confusion whether it is real or imagined, Sam's metamorphosis takes her through the full gamut of emotional responses: horrified, dazed, hysterical, logical, numb, secretive, embarrassed, angry, and appreciative.  Surprisingly, with people like Marlon and Malika volunteering to support her in her changeover to wolf girl,  Sam's Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl storyline becomes all the more credible (if you can say that about werewolves) and definitely less horrific.

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