Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Six Moon Summer (Seasons of the Moon #1) by SM Reine

Rylie didn’t want to go to camp. She’s a city lover at heart and she doesn’t want anything to do with her and the great outdoors. Especially not when her parents are just getting rid of her so they can arrange their divorce

But even she didn’t imagine of the threats of nature would be being bitten by a werewolf.

Now she is slowly transforming, her appetites, her anger – and that’s without the moon rising. She has 3 months to find a way to stop it, or she’ll be a monster for life.

I am torn. On the one hand I have to applaud how very human Rylie is – and not just Rylie, everyone. She’s a teenaged girl going through some terrible times with her family and has been dumped in summer camp, basically to get rid of her while her parents try to sort through their lives. In addition to resenting being kicked off to the middle of nowhere, Rylie is an urbanite. She doesn’t like the countryside, not even a little.

Rylie is not a happy young woman.  On top of that she’s also turning into a werewolf which comes with its own set of complications and problems

And it shows – she’s a surly teenager who is kind of surly. This generally leaves me jumping between two stances: irritated with Rylie because she’s not perfect, she’s angry and she doesn’t always act perfectly because of it. Or angry with the people around Rylie for the somtimes unfair way they treat her, because they’re also not perfect and they’re generally trying (especially the camp counsellor).

I have to say that neither stances nor the story makes me especially particularly like her but that’s not a criticism on the character. She is a very real character, a very human character and, like many people who are going through a difficult time, she’s not especially likeable. And that’s fine – she’s is a very good character with interesting points and character growth. And it’s her very normal humanity that makes her slow transition into becoming a werewolf and all that means all the more powerful and meaningful.

I can’t say the same for the development of any other character, sadly. This is a book that is very focused on Rylie but there’s no connection or real humanisation of anyone else. The figures at camp are pretty much small parts. She has a guide to the ways of the werewolf in the guise of Seth – but all he is his the uber-hot purveyor of arcane knowledge. There’s a sinister guy who is sinister and an ending that should be really twisting and surprising but fails to be because none of these characters were developed in a meaningful manner. Ending with “Oh look X is a werewolf!” isn’t all that shocking or surprising or meaningful because I know next to nothing about X and have been given no real reason to care about them.

I think the biggest hole in this book is the treatment of women which is just plain awful. I think it stands out all the more because Rylie is such a real character, imperfect but good, trying her best but sometimes falling shirt and is generally very relatable. There are two other female characters in the book who aren’t terrible – but end up with a terrible fate or being terrible so the whole not making them awful people feels less like character development but more to try and make their endings shocking or a twist or meaningful. Other than that we have a full posse of Mean Girls who are just ridiculously awful and Rylie’s mother who exists repeatedly for Rylie to say how much she prefers her dad. On top of that Rylie makes a point that all her friends are male because of the terrible terribleness that is the female gender and we have a cameo appearance by one of Rylie’s friends girlfriends (and girlfriends are treated as threats on par with a zombie apocalypse) who is a complete caricature of awful. It’s a parade of awfulness, sadly.

Inclusion wise, Seth is a Black man and probably the second most prominent character after Rylie. He isn’t exactly well developed but I don’t think anyone is. There’s also a brief appearance by Seth’s brother, Able. There are no LGBT characters

I find myself divided on this book. When telling the story of Rylie, her emotions, her slow change into a werewolf, the changes in her as she grows and changes-  that’s an excellent story with an excellent and very real character. That is a good story. But once you involve any of the other characters it all becomes a little shaky – the interactions are all a little convoluted or contrived or just cliché and the characters pretty much cardboard cut outs. And, sadly, the plot beyond Rylie’s change pretty much evolves around other werewolves and werewolf hunters which really need those other characters to matter

This book introduced Rylie and that was clearly the purpose – but she’s the only technicolour character surrounded by a monochrome setting and greyscale secondary characters.