Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock really surprised me. I’m not sure I had a preconceived opinion about this book, if anything, all the reviews I read lead me to believe the story was really good, but after deciding I might be over YA books after reading a few downers I went into this book with interest but not excitement.
I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. Deadly Hemlock isn’t your typical werewolf novel. It’s a cross between a bit of a dystopian and supernatural world where werewolves are humans who have come down with Lupine Syndrome, a disease that is running rampant and can be caught by a werewolf scratch of bite. The government has made werewolf rehabilitation camps to heard all those found to carry Lupine Syndrome and let’s just say it’s a dangerous time for any and all suspected. The Trackers are a group who will use any and all force necessary to subdue and intern werewolves and aren’t above extreme violence and underhanded tactics to further their cause. Hemlock is a small town set in an act first, ask questions later society. Where even the mere whiff that you might be a werewolf could mean extreme danger for your family and anyone close to you.
The main character Mac is still reeling after the murder of her best friend Amy who was killed a year prior to the start of the book as one of four victims in a series of werewolf killings. The wolf responsible was never caught and there are several questions left to be answered. Mac’s best friends Kyle and Jason (Amy’s boyfriend) are all haunted by her death and are dealing with her loss in different ways. I really liked the dynamic between the three friends. Although a slight love triangle develops, I thought it was interesting and not annoying like so many love triangles can be. Mac was pretty oblivious, and then pretty clear on who she cared for and I liked that. She loves both boys, but love loves one in particular. My only gripe where the characters and relationships are concerned, is that as I read on I realised more and more that the relationship dynamic between the four friends was very very similar to those in the tv series Veronica Mars.
The similarities grew stronger after I realised and although it’s not a downfall of the book, the relationships are also not that original. They worked in the tv series (which I’m a huge fan of) and worked for this book as well.
I have to say I was really caught up in this story, I liked all the characters and enjoyed the murder mystery angle as well as the serious sense of danger this world presented. The whole Lupine Syndrome and treatment of werewolves debate that is presented throughout the story is clever and engaging and also could be quite the comment on our own society and the treatment of people society sees as ‘other’.
The story was full of action, the love story heated and sweet and engaging. I changed my mind about Kyle and Jason and their characters several times through out the book and have to say I enjoyed that. I like when characters surprise you and keep you on your toes. I really thought Kyle was going to end up being the too good to be true best friend, kind of milk toast, but I really liked seeing where his character went. I expected to really prefer Jason, but his character had his ups and downs as well and I ended up liking him and hating him a bit. Mac was easily likable and relatable and a good solid main character.
This book made me tense and excited and I couldn’t put it down once I sunk my teeth in. A really great first book! Can’t wait to pick up the next two in the series and see how it all pans out.
It’s this kind of story that made me love YA.