Book Summary: The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.
Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.
My Review: First I want to mention that I picked up the novel after I watched the show. The Netflix series does a great job of visualizing the novel so much so that I decided to pick up the book. After sitting through all 13 episodes, I believed reading the novel would remove some confusion the show had created with several of its plot twists. To give McGreevy credit, it did. Kind of.
There are a lot of confusing aspects to the story which is not helped by the writing. Sometimes I had to go back and re-read a sentence or paragraph because I had no idea what the characters were saying or doing due to poor punctuation. There were moments when I wasn’t sure who was speaking or even what they were trying to say. Another thing that bothered me was the narration. It jumps around a lot throughout the novel — even sometimes in the same chapter — that it left me trying to decipher whose point of view it was: the killer’s? The author’s? Did they just cut and paste the best parts of several rough drafts together? It flip-flops enough that as a reader I found it distracting.
Sometimes it felt as if McGreevy overused a thesaurus for parts of the book. Take this for an example:
Roman screamed, and his knees buckled under him and he fell to the lawn screaming, and the ground around him buckled inward in a concavity of a perfect circumference that appeared around him, but he did not notice as the ground rippled and then fell away and he was swallowed by the pit.
Not only is this sentence confusing, but it’s awkwardly written as well.
There are also parts of the novel I highly enjoyed: the commentary by the narrator, the characters themselves and the titles of the chapters (ex. Peter’s Hierarchy of Shit He Can Live Without). I also enjoyed the snarky banter between Roman and Peter (or really Roman and everyone) and the way McGreevy incorporated emails from Shelly (Roman’s sister) as a form of communication instead of leaving her simply to play Frankenstein’s Monster.
Last Thoughts: Brian McGreevy had a great idea for a story that was overshadowed by poor writing. Although I wouldn’t highly recommend this to a friend, I still enjoyed it despite all of its flaws.