Seventeen-year-old Chloe fears she’s a Dud, a child born to two werewolves who can’t change into a wolf. If she’s still a Dud by the time she reaches adulthood, she’ll be exiled. In the meantime, she’s at the bottom of the pack hierarchy. But Chloe is a natural Alpha, unable to bow her head meekly. While running through the woods, she encounters a feral werewolf with the opposite problem: he’s trapped in wolf form. Chloe suspects the feral is her old classmate, Marcus, who everyone believes died along with the rest of his family in a mysterious plane crash last year. Chloe vows to help Marcus regain his human self because giving up on him would mean admitting possible failure for herself, too. But she must act quickly. Pack law mandates killing ferals.
Title: Feral | Author: Nicole Luiken | Publisher: Yellow Dog | Pub Date: 30/11/2019 | Pages: 224 | ISBN13: 9781773370316 | Genre: YA/Urban Fantasy/Werewolf | Language: English | Source: Self-bought | Starred Review
Chloe is the butt of every joke and subject of ongoing scorn from her friends at school and in her close knit community, known as the Pack. Once the leader of their group, every one of her friends has Changed but she hasn’t yet been able to take the shape of a wolf.
This sets the stage for Chloe’s personal conflict. We know that she wants to go through the Change so that she can be a full member of the Pack. The stakes are high. If she doesn’t Change, she’ll be exiled from her home and family.
This is the first layer of Chloe’s arc, and it teaches her a hard lesson for her to learn. Being a werewolf isn’t about power and glory; it’s about loyalty to the Pack and putting the Pack first. She struggles with the way she is treated by her coach and friends, but must learn to accept her place in Pack hierarchy, which isn’t easy for her to do because she’s headstrong.
There is a risk some might interpret this as suggesting that people who are bullied should just put up with it, but it is clear from Chloe’s parents that some of the behavior crosses the line and is unacceptable. There’s a difference between being disciplined and being cruelly mistreated. This arc does teach her a lot about protecting others who are at risk, and about humility.
There are also a number of other factors that shape her arc. Her Pack is a small community of werewolves fighting for the survival of their community and their land. Nearby Townies want to log their Preserve, a Preserve they co-own with Lady Sasquatch. As a teenager, Chloe doesn’t completely understand the threats to her community, but when a strange werewolf turns up in the woods, she feels compelled to keep its existence secret. Feral wolves are shot on sight, but this wolf isn’t dangerous.
She starts to piece things together and realizes who the wolf is; Marcus, the younger brother of her best friend, whose entire family were believed to have been killed in a plane crash the year before. Chloe is determined to help him regain his humanity and prove he belongs to the Pack.
One might think that a community of werewolves who have a land deal with a Sasquatch would be pretty open minded, but many of the people in her Pack aren’t. There are some other things that are odd. Their Alpha is sick and dying of cancer. That’s not normal, because werewolves have super healing abilities.
There are some smaller parts of the story told in Marcus’s POV and these compliment Chloe’s narrative arc. Marcus is on his own journey and it isn’t an easy one. His emotional pain is one of the biggest obstacles to his development, but this was very believable. Marcus needs to remember his human self, and remember all of the details about the crash to fill in some of the missing details that will help Chloe figure out who is really threatening her Pack. It was completely realistic that Marcus would shut down and have a hard time talking about what had happened. It also did not simply feel like the author was withholding information to serve the plot (and delay revelations) because she took time to develop the character and his arc fully and establish Marcus’s motivations.
Even with the information that Marcus has, it isn’t enough to stop the threat. They must take action and find ways to thwart an ancient and evil force that threatens the lives of everyone in their community. This is also a good contrast with some of the adults in the story, who were vulnerable because they put their own fears and self-interests ahead of the Pack.
Overall, Chloe’s arc is a compelling one. Most of the story is told from her POV and we see that she is conflicted, because she has values and tries to follow the Pack rules, but at the same time she must disobey in order to protect Marcus and find out the truth about what is going on. The author does an impressive job of weaving together subtle details that pay off later and the story moves at a brisk pace without skimping on character development. There were some things I suspected early on, but not everything panned out the way I thought it would, either. This ultimately made the read extremely satisfying. I’m not really much of a werewolf person and am not familiar with all the lore, but I was completely invested in Chloe’s world. I was easily hooked and my interest never lagged. I finished the book in less than two days. This was my first read by Nicole Luiken. It will not be my last.
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