Author: Heather Davis
The dustjacket blurb for Never Cry Werewolf claims that the author "didn't set out to write a book about werewolves", and I believe it. The male lead is a werewolf, but this is so irrelevant to the plot that I feel cheated. It's literally just an obstacle that some vials of Liquid MacGuffin are needed to deal with. You could replace it with any random real or imagined chronic disease, tweak the plot a bit, and have the same story. I'm not even sure this book belongs on my blog. But it does have a werewolf, it's advertised as a werewolf story, and I've read it already, so here we go...
Shelby Locke is a sixteenish girl from a wealthy family, and she has boy problems. Actually, she doesn't have any problem with boys- it's her father and stepmother who take issue, especially when she keeps getting caught smooching with those boys. After one offense too many, Shelby gets shipped off to Camp Crescent for the summer. Camp Crescent is a "therapy camp" for troublemaking rich kids, and among the campers is
The author has crafted a pretty good cast here. The first half of Never Cry Werewolf introduces us to a large-ish cast of characters, and they're a pretty diverse group. Shelby initially seems to be another YA protagonist with bad parents and rebellious tendencies, but eventually her family situation reveals hidden depths. She's also more responsible then she at first seems. The various campers each have distinctive personalities, though their importance to the plot varies. The camp staff are the main bad guys, but they don't come off as unreasonable authority figures. Rather, they're people doing an often-unpleasant job who have no way of knowing how serious Austin's problems are. Winters in particular is at first buffoonish but soon turns out to be very sympathetic.
Unfortunately this doesn't mean much because of bad dialog. Whenever the characters open their mouths it's stilted and wooden, which completely kills the effort gone into fleshing them out. Austin is the worst victim, and the one that ultimately sinks the book. The love story is supposed to be the main plot, but Austin and Shelby have zero chemistry. I literally could not tell at what point they went from simply friendly to romantically involved.
It's not just the characterization that shows a lack of experience. Plot events also tend to fall flat. Early chapters are fine. But about halfway through- after Shelby learns Austin's big secret- the spark goes out. It's like the author stopped caring as the writing process went on. Characters formerly played as important, or at least interesting, vanish abruptly from the story. Several times the narration mentioned something that had happened, or an item that was on-hand, and I went "What? When did that happen?" This could be a continuity error, or it could be that my mind was wandering because the writing completely failed to grab me.
One scene about three-quarters of the way through did grab me. For all the wrong reasons. (Minor spoiler up ahead.) Shelby and Austin have snuck out of camp through a break in the fence encircling it. Shelby has to return, but drama happens and the gap they came through is sealed. To try to get back inside, they wander off into the woods, searching for the front gate. Naturally, they're soon hopelessly lost.
It never occurs to either Austin or Shelby- or, apparently, the author- that the front gate goes through the fence. They could find it easily by following the fence around the camp.
I gave up on the book at that point. I kept reading, but I had completely lost faith in the author's ability to tell the story. I recall the climax seemed weak and anticlimactic. The final scene- which was supposed to be OMFG ROMANTIC- instead was overblown and treacly. But I may be biased- at this point, I had no interest anymore, and was simply reading to be done with it.
I get the same impression from Never Cry Werewolf that I got from Claire de Lune- one of a story ushered out to the presses before it was fully revised. But while Claire de Lune could have been a good book if it had been given the attention it needed, I really don't think Never Cry Werewolf is salvageable. The story isn't very original, and the execution betrays an author that doesn't seem to care. There are moments when Davis shows skill, and I think she has a good story or two in her. But that story isn't this one.