Tagline: “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?” (Props for age appropriateness.)
Premise: Grady and his family move to Florida after his scientist father begins studying the habits of swamp deer when transplanted to America. This means plenty of time to explore the swamp just beyond his backyard with his new friends Will and Cassie and the dog that shows up in the yard and becomes his own, Wolf. Every night, Grady hears howling outside his house. Cassie plants the idea of werewolves in his head, which Will and Grady’s family vehemently deny. Still, Grady is suspicious of the swamp hermit, convincing himself that the man could very well be a werewolf. Eventually, Grady decides to scope out the scene after hearing the overnight howls. That’s when he discovers the reason Will denied the existence of werewolves: he is one. Will attacks Grady and gives him a bite, Wolf defends Grady and takes down Will, and, in a lovely little twist, that bite doesn’t kill Grady, transforming him into a werewolf instead.
Creepiness factor: As high as ever. This book involves animals teared limb from limb, courtesy of Will’s midnight strolls, and classic monster movie tactics. It’s the first time Stine’s tackled a truly classic monster, and he does so very, very well.
Signature Stine moment: Some similes here, some abbreviated sentences, but what I like is the heavy-handed indication of things to come. It’s something that happens in nearly every book, something along the lines of “Little did Dad know what he’d find out about real monsters later.” Here’s this book’s offering.
“We had no idea that something was about to happen that night that might change his opinion about werewolves–forever.”
Accuracy of title: 100% accuracy right here. It’s about a werewolf in an area commonly referred to as Fever Swamp. Good show, Stine.
Moral of the story: If you believe your dog’s not a werewolf, don’t worry, he isn’t, despite what your family and friends might say. But your new friend probably is, so, you know, watch out for him.
Overall rating: 8/10. This is a genuinely creepy, engaging story. The idea isn’t exactly original, since all werewolf stories end up about the same, but it’s handled well here. Next up: You Can’t Scare Me!