This started out a bit iffy, but it definitely got better for me as it went on. I’ll start by getting some nitpicky things and complaints out of the way, then talk about what I liked.
The teen werewolf mating campout, in which teens as young as 15 were pressured to find “the one” within a few days time, was weird. To be fair, these are fictional werewolves, and even real life adults put weird pressures on teens, but still. That part of the book wasn’t the strongest for me.
I’ve seen reviewers mention that the werewolf community in the book is very heteronormative, and it is, among other things. But I was ok with that, in the sense that there are real life communities full of heteronormativity/queerphobia, so it’s a reality some teens have to deal with. And though the characters didn’t question things as much as I might’ve expected them to (being queer or female themselves, and presumably Gen Z), at least some of the problematic stuff was slightly challenged. And maybe the characters are just so mired in the beliefs they were raised with that they’re slow to realize or confront certain things. That’s not necessarily unrealistic.
I was unclear on some things. I would’ve liked more info on wolf abilities and society. I was in Max’s POV, and yet I couldn’t tell how he felt about being attracted to a guy. And I especially didn’t understand the mate bond. It was a huge deal. But then there were wolves who didn’t have a fated mate, they just chose their mate. And then it turned out there was a ritual with biting that would make a bond with that person and break any existing bonds with others. But doesn’t that mean chosen mates are just as good as fated ones? *SPOILER* And why would breaking a bond by forcefully creating a new one even matter if the original two people still just genuinely like/love each other? Does the new bond create artificial feelings that overpower the real ones? Because that would have uncomfortable and widespread implications. *END SPOILER*
There were a couple things that I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about, so I’m reserving judgment until I see more. The friendship between Max and Katie didn’t feel very close. So if it’s meant to be a great friendship, I don’t buy it. But if it’s meant to be an imperfect friendship, maybe one that’s drifting apart or two people who are really only friends because they’ve always been friends, it feels realistic. And the alpha—if I’m meant to like him just because of a good thing he did, no thanks. But if he’s meant to be complex or to show how a person can treat their child abusively but be very charming publicly, or if he’s having his own growth arc, then he’s being written well.
And now the good—the book got better in the second half, once they left the festival! The plot got more interesting with some drama, action, and danger. I got more invested and wanted to know what would happen with both plot and romance. Dialogue was somewhat stilted in the beginning, especially between Max and Jasper, but that improved and felt more natural as the book went on. There was also just more interaction between them, so we got to start seeing the feelings and the angst.
Some characters were likeable. Some were sympathetic. Some weren’t. Max was kind of oblivious but determined. Jasper was broody. And they all felt like teens. Sometimes they made rash decisions or bad decisions or hurt people or had dramatic emotions, but, you know, so do a lot of teens. (Some adults too.)
A few neutral things readers might like to know… Jasper was a jerk to Max at first, but it was never too extreme or unforgivable. It was sort of general condescension. *SPOILER* And in the end, he explained that he acted like a jerk purposely in order to push Max away, because of his fear of getting something good only to lose it the way he lost his mother. *END SPOILER* I’ve seen it mentioned that Max seemed to forget that he and Jasper kissed earlier in the book, but, just to clarify, he thinks at one point about how he just doesn’t consider that first one a real kiss. Last but not least, this is the first in a series, so all the threads, including romantic, are not wrapped up yet.
I try to keep in mind with YA books that they’re not for me, they’re for and about teens. And as a teen, I probably would’ve liked this even more since I wasn’t as nitpicky and just enjoyed getting sucked into a good story with some action and drama and angsty romance.
So overall, I liked this, and it was good in a lot of ways. It just lacked the oomph and awareness it could’ve had. But it’s possible some of these things will be better in the next book, and I’m interested in the characters and was pulled into the story and want to see what will happen next!
Anyone who likes queer YA romance with angst, some drama and action, and wolf shifters.