Title: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (MonsterStreet #1)
Author: J.H. Reynolds
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series is what got me into reading when I was young. My parents would read to me at night, and I almost always asked for something from R.L. Stine as he was a favorite. I remember running to the book section at Target every time we went to see if the newest Goosebumps book was in. Whenever I see something that is remotely similar to the that series, it always piques my interest. MonsterStreet goes above and beyond “remote similarities”, though, as it even has a pull quote from the middle grade horror maestro himself on the cover!
As of this review, there are three books in this series, and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is the first out of the gate. As someone who isn’t a big fan of werewolf stories, I was honestly contemplating skipping this one and moving on to the next two because both look more interesting to me. I decided it would be best to start at the beginning, and, as one might expect, Boy Who Cried Werewolf doesn’t add anything new or exciting to the established werewolf sub-genre.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf tells the story of Max Bloodnight, a 12-year-old boy who is visiting his grandparents for the first time out in the middle of nowhere, better known as Wolf County. Not only will he not have an internet connection, or his Xbox, his grandparents don’t even have electricity. It’s every modern pre-teen’s worst nightmare. Hell, it’s my worst nightmare!
Max is visiting his grandparents for the first time because his mother has not felt safe near their home since Max’s father died in the woods behind their house when Max was a baby. The details surrounding his father’s death have always been vague for Max, but he quickly finds out that his dad was killed by a monster trying to protect the family. When his grandparents warn him not to go into the woods, Max cannot help but wonder why, and if it has anything to do with the death of his father. He has to find answers, no matter how many rules he needs to break.
The story is as cut and dry as it comes, but that should be expected when reading a middle grade book like this. I am clearly not the target audience anymore, but I still had a good time with this book. Author J.H. Reynolds has a habit in Boy Who Cried Werewolf of being a little on-the-nose with his names: Max Bloodnight, Wolf County, Jade Howler (the girl next door). This was a bit cringeworthy for me now, but I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it if I was reading this as a pre-teen.
The biggest disappointment with the book is the lack of surprises. It’s a typical werewolf story, and if you’ve read or watched some before, you will know what to expect here. I’ll admit that there was one aspect of the story I didn’t see coming, but for the most part, nothing is designed to shock the reader. I might also be a bit biased as I just finished R.L. Stine’s Camp Red Moon last week, and it opens with a werewolf story that had a fun twist I didn’t see coming. The final chapter as a whole had a number of problems for me, but I enjoyed the ride to the end well enough.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is aimed at a pre-teen audience, so a review by an adult like myself, nearly three times the targeted age, is a bit silly, but I really believe that a genuinely good middle grade novel can hold up even if you’re reading it later in life. The Goosebumps novels have their issues, but they’re still genuinely fun to read today, nostalgia aside. The start of the MonsterStreet series shares a lot of similarities with the Goosebumps books of my childhood, and excluding the final chapter, the only reason I didn’t love this one was because it’s a werewolf story, which I am generally lukewarm on anyway.
This is a solid start, though, to a series that I am excited to continue. Reynolds is a strong writer, and MonsterStreet has the potential to get today’s youth excited about reading just like Stine did for me back in the ’90s.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.