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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.
In a literary world where the vast majority of werewolf stories fall into the “been there done that” category, Hemlock doesn’t merely shine, it supernovas! Dark, creative, and emotional; Hemlock raises the bar on all accounts. Solid world building and multifaceted characters pair with a unique take on werewolves to create not only a highly addicting book, but also a new personal favorite of mine. This was one of those books that while reading, capture your interest immediately. Similar to True Blood’s story basing of vampires coming out of the coffin, Hemlock explores the danger, difficulties, and drama within a world where the public is well aware of the existence of werewolves. However, in the world of Hemlock weres are more commonly referred to as the unfortunates who’ve contracted Lupine Syndrome.
Hemlock is one of those books you don’t easily forget. Although it’s been about a week since I finished reading it, from time to time I still find myself thinking about its world. I found the whole idea of lupine syndrome fascinating because it felt like an euphemism. Much like racism and other types of separation such as class and religious segregation, in the world of Hemlock, werewolves are set apart from “normal” society. They’re feared and treated as lower beings. With diminished rights they’re forced to register themselves into “rehabilitation” centers. It’s commonly known that once you enter one of these centers, you never come out. Then you have an unofficial group called trackers who travel from town to town monitoring potential lupine infectees. Although at first they strike you as saviors, that wholesome and righteous image quickly dissolves once you realize who the TRUE monsters are.
We jump right into the story by being introduced to our main character, Mackenzie a.k.a. Mac. She, like her two best friends, Kyle and Jason, still mourn the death of mutual friend, Amy. A couple months before this book truly starts, Amy’s body is discovered in an alleyway by her boyfriend, Jason. All signs point to a werewolf attack. When we first get to know Mac it’s easy to understand her grief stricken attitude along with Kyle and Jason’s. All three blame themselves for Amy’s death whether it be a missed call or cancelled plans; they feel like they let her down. Unfortunately, out of the three, Jason is the most damaged because he is the one who witnessed Amy’s shredded corpse firsthand, an image that I for one would never be able to erase from my memory. All three friends seem to take their mourning in different directions. Mac is haunted in her dreams by Amy, while Jason’s stability declines steadily due to his constant consumption of alcohol. Besides wishing he hadn’t missed the previously mentioned “call” Kyle seems to be the only one truly healing in a healthy/normal fashion.
A lot of questions arise throughout the book. What was Amy doing right before she died? Why was she in that particular alleyway? Was it really a werewolf that killed her? Confused, scared, and angry, Mac decides that it’s time for real answers by summoning her inner Nancy Drew. She takes it upon herself to collect the evidence from Amy’s death, as well as discovering clues that were overlooked. Kyle who gradually becomes more of a romantic lead, also becomes Mac’s sleuthing sidekick. Due to his self-destructive nature and new interest in joining the trackers, Jason spends a good chunk of the book at odds with Mac and Kyle. For multiple reasons including personal ones, both Mac and Kyle find the trackers to be barbaric which in turn clashes with Jason’s gun-hoe mission to join them in order to repent for Amy’s death.
I loved Hemlock! On just about every level it succeeded. Well rounded and thought-provoking characters kept you invested along with a fresh and unique take on werewolf mythology. The story was well thought out and planned, never a dull moment. However, although I really want to give it 5 bolts I just can’t. This book is all about uncovering secrets and revealing hidden agendas and mysteries. I wanted eye popping and jaw dropping but instead all I got was mild surprise. When it came to the big reveals; they’re weren’t very reveal-y because I had already put 2 and 2 together. Regardless, I give Hemlock 4.5 bolts. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who love strong heroines, emotional situations, sweet romances, and of course oodles and oodles of secrets.