my favorite blurb from the ARC cover:
"Forget any reservations you might have about werewolf stories or verse novels. This is great, engaging, wonderful stuff. Sondheim should make it his next musical." --Michael Moorcock, author of The White Wolfe's Son.let me say now that i'm not a fan of Michael Moorcock. but that's beside the point. this is my favorite blurb because not only is it completely absurd (a Sondheim musical about werewolves? and some people think CATS is bad ... ), it also encapsulates the absurdity of the book itself.
Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow, is a VERSE NOVEL about WEREWOLVES. excuse the capitals.
let's start with the part where it's a "verse novel". what is a "verse novel"? i was completely unaware of the phenomenon. the only thing i've read that looks similar on the page is Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf (the best one out there, for my money). but that's a translation of an actual epic poem. hence, it is in verse. Sharp Teeth is not a translation, and i wouldn't call it an epic. it's written in plain verse (or prose poetry, or whatever the heck it's called when the lines don't rhyme or match rhythmically), and i'm not 100% sure why. i honestly couldn't tell you if it would make a difference if it looked like prose -- the writing doesn't seem, to me, to benefit from being chopped up into different lines and spread out along the page. it would also save paper.
but enough about that! it's werewolves! we love werewolves, right?
well, actually, yes we do. but i can't remember the last time i read a story/book i liked about werewolves. wait, yes i can: Jacob Black is likely to go down in history as the werewolf most teenage girls would like to go to prom with, and Patricia Wrede's Book of Enchantments has a lovely short story in which werewolves feature. (the point i was trying to make is that there are an awful lot of bad/mediocre/ok/pretty good/cult classic movies about werewolves that i would watch, or at least consider watching, but i can't say the same for books.)
i wouldn't call Sharp Teeth lovely, for the same reasons i can't see it as a musical -- there is an awful lot of blood, sex, guts, suicide, murder, gang violence, and revenge. (on second thought, maybe it would make a good musical. it's just hard to imagine someone singing about gang violence without having flashbacks to my high school's production of West Side Story. which actually proves the point, now that i think about it; how much better would West Side Story have been if it was about werewolves? lots better. maybe Michael Moorcock deserves more credit than i give him.)
ANYWAY, what i'm trying to say here is that i liked Sharp Teeth, despite it's being a verse novel. having lived in Los Angeles, where the action takes place, i find it not unbelievable that werewolf gangs could attempt to stage a coup. it's a surprisingly original and thoughtful (not a word often applied to werewolf stories) take on an overdone theme. there are some fantastic beach scenes, which is one easy way to win me over. and Toby Barlow handles complex emotion remarkably well, which gave the story some reprieve from the aforementioned action. if i had to characterize it by comparing it to another author, i'd say it's Bloodsucking Fiends, minus the Christopher Moore wacky humor.
so! if you're not afraid to spend some time figuring out how to properly read a verse novel, and you like werewolves (or vampires, this is a good adult cure for post-Twilight/New Moon/Eclipse angst), then you will like Sharp Teeth, and i apologize for all the rambling it took me to get to that sentence.