Publisher: Puffin Books, 1993 and 1994
Edition: Paperback that I had to order off Ebay cause this book is outta print! NO!
90s paranormal phenomenon: werewolves
Okay you all know by now that Ellen and I are children of the 90s. This makes us roughly…years old (I’m sticking to the party line of 29) and we can still remember how awful it was to have to wait for book releases. Yes, many of you don’t have to deal with that now in the era of the Internet and Amazon but back in the olden days we sometimes waited months, other times entire YEARS, for the next in a series to be released. Ann Hodgman released the first two of her Children of the Night series back in 1993-94 and young adolescent Judith has been waiting for the third since then. That’s 18 years! 18 years for the stunning conclusion and the sad thing is…we never get it! But luckily, the author graciously told me all about what was supposed to happen so I got some closure and so will you after I review both books now.
Plot: Book 1: Lila is just your normal, though glamorously beautiful, 16 year old high school girl. Her boyfriend, Corey, is the school’s football star and her best friends are the prettiest, most popular girls around. Even in the face of her cold, almost unloving parents, all is amazing and perfect in Lila’s world except she has the nagging feeling that she doesn’t belong, that something extremely important is missing. Then the full moon hits and Lila inexplicably transforms into a wolf for three long nights. When that span of days is over, she is changed in ways far deeper than the physical. Lila begins to crave her werewolf transformations and revamps her day to day life to fit the new her. She kicks Corey to the curb thinking he’s way too boring and begins to pull away from her popular and shallow friends. When a mysterious motorcycle rider begins following Lila around town and turning up at unexpected times and places, she is given the impetus to changer her life completely and finally runs away with him after an incident at school casts suspicions on her and her wolf powers.
Book 2: Rider, the mysterious motorcycle hottie from Book 1, and Lila spend their days traveling further and further North on the back of his motorcycle while people back home, namely the spurned Corey, are frantic to know why Lila ran away and where she is. As weeks turn into months, Lila realizes she and Rider are able to share more than just their human lives because , that’s right–he’s a werewolf too! As werewolves the depth of their connection is limitless and that intensity bleeds over into the human side as well. Both discover how much they truly care about one another right when Rider is seriously injured and Corey, the luckiest searcher of a missing person ever, stumbles upon them in the nick of time. The three form a fragile alliance and a mysterious old man somewhere in Europe decides that they need to stick together as a force from the North pushes them inexorably toward it.
Book 3: Oh wait! There isn’t one and you’ll never know WTF happens except for the fact that I guilted and begged the author, Ann Hodgman, for it and believe me, what I got from her wasn’t much: “I can tell you that Dark Triumph was going to end with Corey taking a bullet for Rider and Lila’s being pregnant with Rider’s baby. But now, looking back, I wonder if I could even have crammed that much story into a single book.”
This book totally lives up to the memories I’ve held on to since 1994! It’s light reading even though the subject matter is dark with a writing style extremely adapted to being quick and catchy, it’s in the third person which we rarely see these days, and most importantly, we’re not subjected to a lot of weird werewolf stuff. All in all, a solid read.
One thing I love about old school YA is how mature and put together the teens are. Lila, at 16, sounds like she could be me right now at 29. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a mortgage and 2 kids. No one swears, talks in the vernacular, or does anything worse than kiss. When Corey and Lila want to spend time together? That’s exactly what they do! They take a walk in the woods together in order to, you know, talk and form a connection. I really like that aspect of the book because it speaks to how relationships really form not like in a lot of current YA where “I was drawn to him from across the room because of his azure sky blue eyes so I bumped and ground my way over to him only to discover he had a skanky girlfriend already bumping and grinding on his back!” You might think I’m trying to be funny, but I’m not. I just finished a book where that exact scene happened. In the Children of the Night series you get some interesting internal monologues but nothing is spelled out for you so the emotions of the characters and the resulting action is as much as surprise for the reader as it is for the person experiencing it. Pretty neat to be able to distance yourself from the main character’s every thought and it makes for more surprises.
The werewolf subject matter is the one plot point I had difficulty with. I get that Lila and Rider are werewolves and on three nights around a full moon they must give in to their baser instincts and prowl around the woods on all fours. With the story as it stands now though, without a conclusion, I don’t understand why these two had to be werewolves. I mean the story is simple: girl feels she doesn’t fit in even though she’s the most popular. She meets a loner boy, discovers that they’re both werewolves, and runs away. But then what? I mean, Lila and Rider are werewolves are heading toward something but we never learn what it is or why. We just see some mysterious old dude controlling them from Europe and it’s obvious he wants them to go toward some werewolf stone of power located “up north”…and then? Who knows! But it’s still interesting to see Lila as a new werewolf learning who she is and discovering the things inside herself that make her so strong. Plus when the werewolves communicate you can see how that further instills the connection she feels to Rider in her human form and makes the fact that they fall in love pretty quickly more palatable.
In the end, I’m giving this 8 out of 10.
So based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 8. Lila was a little too flat for me but the fact that she wanted to change her ho-hum perfect life into something else earns her big points. She didn’t really have the guts to change it herself instead using Rider as the catalyst to leave home and shake things up. But then, it was all her. She was the one that stuck with Rider even though times were tough and she could have gone home. But she realized that being a werewolf had changed her so intrinsically that she could never go back to what she was before.
How much did I like the love interest: 10. Rider sounds like he is smokin’ hot! The bad boy to end all bad boys with a leather jacket, long hair, good looks, and a motorcycle. Plus he doesn’t say much at all and only wants what’s best for Lila. And and and! He doesn’t find her constant whining annoying even though he grew up without other people around. I just wish we could have seen more of him.
How believable is the plot: 8. Uhhh, this is a book about werewolves, a sorcerer able to control people thousands of miles away, and a 16 year old boy who goes in search of a missing person and miraculously finds her. Let’s just say you have to suspend what you believe in for this one and roll with it.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Ann Hodgman has a great style that I shall dub, 90s 3rd person simple yet descriptive natter. She is able to convey a lot of information with very few words and we’re not bogged down with crazy descriptions of people, places, or events. Everything is straightforward, not complex and the dialogue is superb!
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. OMG! How could Ann and Puffin Books leave us with a blurb and an ISBN for the third in the series, Dark Triumph, and then never come through! What happens when Lila, Corey, and Rider make it to the Stone of Power way up North? Do they turn Corey into a werewolf? Why do they need to be at the Stone? Who else will be there? Why did Rider even go looking for Lila in the first place? So many unanswered questions that will NEVER EVER HAVE ANSWERS! Muwahhhhhh….
Final Score: 8/10. If you like old school paranormal YA a la LJ Smith and Christopher Pike, get this book but be prepared to be as put out by the lack of conclusion as I was.