Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Title: Hemlock
Author: Kathleen Peacock
Series: Hemlock #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 8, 2012
ISBN13: 9780062048653
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: YA, urban fantasy, paranormal, romance
Source: borrowed from library

Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's killer:

A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome--also known as the werewolf virus--is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy's boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

Kathleen Peacock's thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.
Mac's best friend, Amy, was killed by a white werewolf. Now anti-werewolf campaigns are on the rise, and strongly supported by Amy's grandfather, a prominent senator. Torn between her other two best friends, Jason, who is becoming more and more drawn to being a werewolf hunter in order to avenge Amy's death, and Kyle, with the boy-next-door attitude that's starting to ebb away as he becomes more and more distant, Mac decides to take things into her own hands: hunt down the very werewolf that took her best friend's life.

Hemlock is not just a simple werewolf story. It contains a mass of different elements woven together through Kathleen Peacock's careful writing, yet still maintains a young adult air to it. What's more impressive is how well it manages to mirror the Salem Witch Hunt (or Trials). A supernatural force that a small town tries to annihilate, the hunters, or in Hemlock, the Trackers, and those few that try to stop the madness. Truly, it's amazing how Peacock accurately writes in mass hysteria without it seeming phony or too complicated to understand. In addition, it made me wonder about a lot of things, which is very impressive since I usually take things as they are on the surface when I'm reading, instead of reading more into the story. What truly makes us human? Is it a certain biological makeup, a particular mindset and way of thinking, or neither of the above? If a human begins to think in ways that could only be counted as savage, is that person still considered human?

Many other readers say that Hemlock was pretty scary. I personally didn't feel that way, but I could feel this really dark atmosphere exuding this aura from Peacock's words. It was magnificently written, making even the happier moments feel wrong yet so right, in a way that makes you feel like something, anything could take a turn for the worse. I love dark stories like that, and the ending atmosphere was perfectly formed by having a glimmer of hope, a spot of brightness beneath all that has happened. All that within the little town of Hemlock, where everything was big enough to have everything happen, but not so broad that I'd get lost and fall within the cracks.

The plotline was utterly stunning. (Am I overusing my adjectives today?) Peacock made the pacing perfect, speeding up in some places, lingering on others. She made every single event, every single word, every single page count. Whenever something happens, it's to prove a point in the story whether it was how far gone the Trackers were going with their campaign, or how deadly the werewolves were without constraint. As well, Peacock's plot twists are to be commended. Usually, I like to at least try to predict twists and turns in events of a story, but Peacock's were so intricately woven that I couldn't even make an assumption without doubting my own logic, especially in the end. But even with all that, I could easily keep up. If I set Hemlock aside for the day, I could pick it right up the next without trying desperately to figure out what happened in the last couple of chapters. The finale, like the rest of the book, was wonderful. It tied the story up nice and smoothly like a standalone would, but you could easily write a sequel to the book if you wanted. The conflict was resolved, story told, and a snippet of what's to come was shown to the audience without it feeling like a cliffhanger.

And as always, what's a paranormal romance without romance? Sometimes I love love triangles, sometimes I hate them. This is one of those times when they're just impeccably written. The triangle of Mac, Kyle, and Jason was one where I felt like they were both nice, but simply liked one better than the other. Jason is the epitome of a misunderstood ex-boyfriend to the victim, Amy. He had his own secrets for all these months surrounding the four of them that he couldn't tell because of Amy's sudden death and how she was pretty much remembered as a saint. Even with how he was somehow led by revenge and need for closure, I always thought that he could somehow be redeemed. Kyle had me sold almost straight-away. He managed to seem like Jason's opposite without making either of them sound bad. As a contrast to Jason's reckless behavior, Kyle was absolutely stable and incredibly dependable, even at times when he had his own secrets. He personified the idea of "boy next door" perfectly but created his own character out of it. In the end, Jason just couldn't hold a candle to Kyle's brightness.

Have I fangirled enough? I'll let you in on a little secret: this review took a few weeks to write, just so I could feel like I'd given the book all that I could give to properly pay tribute to it. No matter what your interests are, no matter what age range you're in, I'd have a pretty hard time not shoving this book into your face. Hemlock is an outstanding read, and certainly one that I would love to return to again and again.
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