J. R. Black: Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? (Shadow Zone #2)

Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? is kind of The Baby-Sitters Club meets Goosebumps. The main character, Annie Dubinski, is like an even-more-sporty, less business-oriented Kristy Thomas. Best friend Lily has Claudia’s hair but a lot of Mary Anne’s personality, only with two over-protective parents instead of one.

guess who's dating a werewolf

The answer to the title question, before I forget, is “Annie’s older sister Sara.” Sara’s painted as a little bit boy-crazy, but not in a way that makes that seem wrong, just…she’s a little older than Annie, a little less sport and outdoorsy, and therefore a teensy bit annoying to Annie.

But. BUT. Even though neither Annie or Lily are dating the werewolf, in spite of being the ones on the cover with him, there’s a vibe of low-level connection between Jake and Annie that makes me think a sequel set five years in the future would definitely have them together. (Quick: someone write me that sequel.)

The book opens with Sara having a sleepover the night before Annie starts sixth grade. High school doesn’t start until next week. Oh, the unfairness. Eleven year old Annie, irritated by the sound of carefree highschoolers having fun in the bedroom next to hers, goes out the window to get some exercise and fresh air. I like her already.

There’s a full moon.

She listens to outside her sister’s window for a minute, long enough to find out Sara’s dating a new guy named Jake Woolverton, and then scares them by scraping a rake on the window. Ha.

Her mother comes out to investigate, and smiles in a way that tells the now-hidden Annie that she knows perfectly well who’s responsible. Aww, I love this mom. She’s reacting calmly to low-level shenanigans like “climbing out the window” and “harmlessly pranking older kids at their sleepover.” (Their father is away for the summer, because he’s a coach and in the summer he runs a training camp.)

Annie tries, and fails, to get Lily to come with her to Graystone Point for a nighttime swing on the rope that hangs out over the water-filled quarry. Lily refuses, knowing she’d get in trouble, so Annie goes on alone and sees a wolf man. She thinks it’s a kid at first, but then sees the muzzle.

Back at home she convinces herself it was just the Tar Street Boys playing a prank on her.

As I stared at the moon, the answer came to me. The Tar Street boys. Those subhuman creeps had tricked me!

Rusty McDowell was the leader of the pack. They hung out in the woods, sometimes at Graystone Point. Like a family of weasels, the Tar Street boys stuck their noses into everything and usually unearthed a nest of trouble. (p. 16)

She tells Lily what happened as they walk to school, and Lily, who reads a lot about the supernatural, correctly guesses it was a werewolf. Annie is unconvinced. Their conversation is interrupted when a motorcycle nearly runs over Annie.

It’s a friendly teenager, who comes back and apologizes for having not realized Annie was stepping off the curb.

“Nice wheels,” I said.

“Thanks. I hope I didn’t scare you too much.” He turned the throttle, and the engine roared. “This baby’s bark is worse than its bite.”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t scare easily.”

“Good.” He gave us a toothy grin. Then he flipped down his visor and revved the engine again. This time, the motorcycle lunged forward like a wild stallion bolting out of a stable. (p. 21)

At school Annie confronts the Tar Street boys, only Lily blurts out that Annie saw a werewolf, so they all start howling and teasing her, and word spreads throughout the entire sixth grade. Oh, the mortification.

After school they head to the quarry, and Annie shows up the Tar Street boys with her superior swinging abilities. That sounds wrong, but you know what I meant. Brian McDowell, Rusty’s brother, falls in.

At home Jake’s on his motorcycle in Annie’s driveway, and she connects the dots and realizes the guy who nearly ran her over is the same new guy her sister is dating. Jake tells Sara he’s just been “hanging with his buds” while he waited for her:

“My baby sister and her little friend?” Sara crooned, batting her eyelashes.

“We have names, you know,” I said, glaring at Sara. “Annie and Lily.”

“Annie and Lily.” Jake nodded. “We go way back. Been buddies since early this morning.”

But Sara didn’t want to hear Jake talk about me. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said, changing the subject. (p. 40)

At dinner Jake eats a phenomenal amount of chicken and talks politely with Annie and Sara’s mother.

I swallowed a mouthful of peas, trying to swallow back the funny feeling at the same time. What the heck was wrong with me? A racing heart? Tingles in my veins?

There was no denying the truth. I had a crush on Jake Woolverton. (p. 42)

She overhears Sara telling him that Graystone Point is “pretty deserted,” and leaps to the entirely wrong conclusion that they’re planning an assignation. So she sneaks out there, dragging Lily with her this time, only to see that Jake is a) alone and b) turning into a wolf! He grabs her by the arm, one claw hooking in her sleeve, but then bites a piece out of her jacket so that she’s free.

She and Lily run, under the impression he might eat them at any moment. From this point on they have a mission: keep Sara away from Jake, at least after dark.

Lily’s parents are waiting at Annie’s house, though, having realized their daughter sneaked out a window. They’re upset, and not sure they should let Lily spend the weekend with Annie as had been planned. Annie’s mother has been made to feel bad because she’s been letting her daughter run wild, and everything sucks.

“We’ve always trusted you and your sister to do the right thing,” she said. “Sara’s older and more mature. Sometimes I forget you’re just eleven, too young to make the right choices.”

If only she knew! I wanted to jump up and spill my guts and tell her that her “older and more mature” daughter was dating a werewolf. That Lily and I were the only ones who knew the truth. And that somehow, we were going to protect Sara from the monster we’d met at Graystone Point. (p. 57)

Even though absolutely no one has faced this particular problem in real life, somehow that perfectly sums up what it’s like to be eleven and have people fail to take you as seriously as you take yourself.

Even more embarrassingly, when she tries to warn Sara to be careful with Jake, Sara thinks she’s jealous and tells her someday she’ll meet a nice boy her own age.

On the way to school Annie and Lily confront Jake with their knowledge that he’s a werewolf.

Then he seemed to make up his mind about something. He flashed us his toothy grin. “I thought you two smelled familiar.”

Smelled?” I repeated, a little too loudly.

“That’s right,” Lily said, snapping her fingers. “Wolves use their olfactory senses to navigate the woods and find food.”

Jake nodded. “I never forget a smell, and I got a good whiff of you two last night.” He put one foot on the ground to lean closer to us. My skin tingled as he took a deep breath. “Yeah, that’s the scent.”

He knew our scent. This was getting too weird. (pp. 65-66)

This is getting perilously close to turning into a paranormal erotic romance, honestly. I love how Lily’s being all scientific in the middle of this.

Anyway, Sara and Jake go to an early showing of a horror movie called Death Slime. Annie and Lily convince Annie’s mom they’re going to go see Thunder Colt, which s showing in the same multiplex, and then of course they sneak into Death Slime and sit right behind Jake and Sara.

Jake turns around, and Annie wonders if he smelled them over the scent of buttered popcorn. I once again wonder what genre we’re in. Then he grins at them, and she sees his fangs, so she dumps her entire bucket of popcorn over Sara’s head.

Sara is, naturally, peeved. Jake sticks up for them:

“Accidents happen,” Jake said. He flashed us a toothy grin, and Lily and I gaped. His fangs had receded. Even white teeth formed a smile so perfect, it could melt a girl’s heart. (p. 78)

Jake says he’s in the mood for pizza, and invites Annie and Lily along. At this point I think they’re in more mortal danger from Sara than from the werewolf.

Annie phones home to let her mother know where they are. Meanwhile she’s wondering if her sister will live to see her sixteenth birthday. Dramatic.

For some reason, Sara and I had been singled out by a teenaged werewolf. Had Jake deliberately chosen to date Sara so that he could…could eat her? (p. 81)

I. Must. Not. Make. Inappropriate. Remarks.

Jake’s already volunteered Annie to help him carry the drinks once her phone call is over, so they get to have a private conversation while they’re in line. He explains the mechanics of werewolfism (three nights only, during the full moon; started when he was bitten by a wolf; isn’t going to eat them). Annie isn’t sure she believes him.

He drives them home (in his car; Sara refuses to ride on his motorcycle), and when Sara kisses him goodnight Annie notices his hand is starting to sprout claws and fur. Sara is oblivious.

Annie and Lily go up to Annie’s bedroom and do lots of werewolf research. They’re interrupted by the Tar Street boys, who’re outside Annie’s window to challenge her to come up to Graystone Point and defend her title of Quarry Queen (for her swinging abilities. IT’S A ROPE SWING. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

She refuses at first, then realizes the annoying boys might get eaten, so she decides to beat them quickly so they’ll go home again. I love how utterly certain she is that she can do that.

And she almost does, too, but Rusty uses his slingshot to hit her in the back with a rock, and she loses her balance. She almost ends up in the quarry, but her jacket hooks on a branch, leaving her dangling there. (Rusty does at least feel bad about this, and he and the other boys run for help.)

Lily starts to go for help too, since they don’t trust the boys to accomplish this relatively minor task. But then the werewolf shows up, and Lily bravely decides to ask Jake to help them.

He climbs the tree and grabs Annie before the branch breaks, but not without incident:

A second later I felt a sharp twinge of pain as he grabbed me. One of his claws had sliced through his jacket and scratched my shoulder. (p. 104)

The Tar Street boys also come through, and show up with the sheriff. Lily and Jake hide so the sheriff won’t see him and shoot, and the sheriff lectures Annie and the boys about safety and tells them he’s going to have to cut down the swing and post signs warning people that the area is off limits.

Annie is relieved, because even though she loves wandering the woods near the quarry she can see that this means it will be a safe location for Jake on his wolfy nights.

The next morning when she wakes up her father is home. He’s brought her a signed baseball glove, and isn’t mad about her window-climbing quarry-swinging adventures (in fact, he’s the one who hung the rope swing in the first place).

Then it’s Sara’s birthday. She’s in a good mood, and even covers for Annie when she and Lily accidentally reveal that they know the plot of Death Slime.

She’s teasing Jake about his eating habits (raccoons and stuff, when he’s in wolf form) when it occurs to her to ask what happens if you get scratched by a werewolf.

Jake’s green eyes flashed eerily for a second as he stared at me. “Well,” he said, “it’s hard to say. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens the next time the moon is full.” (p. 124)

Annie dismisses her sudden urge to run through the woods at night as not unusual for her, but then as she lifts her chicken leg she notices her nails digging into it, even though she’d trimmed them the night before…

 

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