Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sharp Teeth

I just read an amazing book. Twice.

I never re-read books--there are too many books I haven't read yet for me to spend extra time with the same one--but this one was such a beautiful, intricate story, and though not short (just over 300 pages), written in free verse poem, so it went fast. I spread both readings out over two days, and the first took me about four hours.

Sharp Teeth is Toby Barlow's first novel, and not something I would normally pull off the shelves. Werewolves in LA? Meth labs, surfers, and shady dog pounds? A free verse novel? (Okay, that last one I'm all about.) This book is worlds different than the stuff I've been reading recently, and I needed that change of pace desperately.

Anthony is a dogcatcher in LA, unsatisfied with many aspects of his job and longing for love. Lark is the alpha male in a pack of modern day werewolves, involved in several business ventures, some dirty, some clean. Then there's Ray, alpha of the rival pack, and Annie and Palo, the blond surfer werewolves with a troubled history that becomes all too present when these characters meet.

One creative decision I did struggle with was Barlow's female werewolf who never gets a name--she is "the girl," "his girl," "she." Her character is integral to several story lines, but if I read into her namelessness, her importance is only as a type: She-wolf. As a likable, sympathetic character, I want her to be more than the main bitch.

Still, with lines like these, it's hard not to fall in love:

The heart is quite comfortable with secrets.
After all, its home is a dark wet place
tucked in among all the other organs
who aren't talking either.

I know that not everyone who reads this book after my high praises will enjoy it--it's a little out there, form and content-wise. I'm still suggest it for anyone needing something new to read. I loved it for the multiple stories, the lyricism, and the diversity of the characters. And I just saw that it's being made into a movie, if IMDB is correct, coming out in 2014. Even though the novel is rooted in literature (thematically/structurally), it's a graphic visual tale that will (if done right) take well to the screen.

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