The simple way to describe this book is to say it’s a parody of Twilight. It’s got a vampire and a werewolf and the awkward girl who loves them, set at a high school in the Pacific Northwest.
Except it’s way more than that. There’s no doubt the book does get in a few good digs at the paranormal YA romance genre, but it’s also a very sweet story in its own right. Indeed, it’s such an authentic representation of what a high school populated by supernatural creatures would be like that it beats Twilight at its own game.
The book is very funny, but there are also elements of creepiness and even of melancholy that find their way into the story. This is a parody that becomes more than a parody, and takes on a life of its own, complete with interesting characters and a memorable setting.
No exaggeration: I felt more of a connection with The Usual Werewolves‘ Serena and her supernatural crushes than I ever did with Bella, Edward, or the rest of that crowd.
And Bertocci’s writing is something to behold. Again and again, what started out as a seemingly run-of-the-mill sentence would make a sharp turn in an unexpected direction, morphing into something surprising and funny. The author clearly knows how to turn a good phrase.
The best example of all is the descriptions of the music the werewolves listen to while cruising around late at night. There are numerous examples, but the best one comes near the end:
“A distinctive lick of piano sauntered into the air like it was far too cool for school, and they cheered as if God Himself had greeted them.”
I won’t say what song this is. But it’s by one of my favorite musicians, and with that hint, and especially in connection with the subject matter of this book, I bet you can guess what song it is.
If you’ve figured it out, or if you’ve just read the book and know the answer, listen to the opening of the song in question. Now, tell me that isn’t a perfect description? I’ve heard that song hundreds of times over the decades, but I could never have put it so perfectly.
The Usual Werewolves is an entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt take on the high school experience, told with a good-natured wit. I certainly can understand if, at the height of the Twilight craze, you swore that you would never read the “supernatural high school romance” genre. But if you made such a vow, it’s worth breaking for this book.