It’s been a few decades since I was a teen, but the memory of what it was like is still prescient. The pressure of getting good grades, figuring out who I was, and dealing with trauma like losing a parent are all universal themes and something we can all relate to in one way or another.
The kids of the midwestern town of Howlette (get it? Howl-lette) have a lot going on. Jae works for his parent’s jewelry store while twins Isabelle and Lorenzo, whose parents are never home, have unrequited crushes on Jae and Jaxon respectively. Alvern lost his parents and recently moved to Howlette from Philadelphia. Mara’s father, the alpha of the local werewolf pack, has gone missing and her mom has been gone from her life for years. There is a lot going on for the kids, plus the pressure of doing well in school, getting ready for college, fitting in, and just overall being kids. I may remember what it was like to go through some of those things, but being right in the moment of them is sharper still.
One day, the kids are attacked by a quartet of vicious dogs. Mara, the lone wolf (get it?) comes in to save them. She directs the kids on how to clean up their wounds and the kids are grateful for her kindness. The following day, the wounds have all nearly healed, but individually the kids don’t feel so hot. When Jae turns into an Airdale in the nurse’s office, you know things are going to change, and quickly.
With a slight horror twist, Werewoofs is also a mystery to find Mara’s dad, who has disappeared. Mara’s familial relationships also come into play in a big way when her cousin Zev takes over as alpha and attempts to turn the pack from peace loving and working with humans to wanting to destroy humans and take over Howlette.
There is a lot going on here as the kids work together and individually on their stuff, with Lorenzo becoming a dog to befriend his crush Jaxon and the kids working together to help protect Jae’s parents from a robbery, as well as solving the mystery of what happened to Mara’s dad.
Joelle Sellner is a versatile writer, having written everything from advertising campaigns for Lexus and Kleenex to movies on the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. She also has a long resume of writing for animation projects such as Lego Friends, DC Super Hero Girls, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. If that weren’t enough, she’s also written for Blizzard, DC, and Marvel. She’s got the chops and it shows. The script is tightly plotted and the characters are fully realized, so you get to experience the pain and joy of all the kids as well as the adults. She leaves no stone unturned and makes sure all the plot points are covered.
Val Wie is an illustrator who has worked on the graphic novel Cheer Up!: Love and Pom Poms as well as anthologies and other works for YA and adults. Wise’s work concentrates on the body, transness, and romance, which is evident here. The characters come in a wide range of sizes, genders, and sexual identities, as well as racial backgrounds. The art feels natural and akin to our daily lives where we come in contact with all sorts of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and in Werewoofs this is very important. While the kids are fairly self-confident in who they are, there are some struggles such as Lorenzo grappling with his queerness and his single statement to his sister that she doesn’t get what it’s like to be him.
This graphic novel is styled as if it’s a volume one and I hope that is true. The kids of Howlette have earned a fan and seeing more stories, solving more mysteries, and learning about themselves and others would make for a great read.
The age range of the book is 12 – 17 but I heartily recommend it for all ages. It will be a great addition to collections that showcase diversity, equity, and inclusion as not only a great starting point to talk to kids about the changes they are about to go through, but also to have the representation of those changes.
By Joelle Sellner
Art by Val Wise
New Paradigm Studios, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 12 – 17
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Queer, Trans