Reviewed by Kristin Luna
Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-5056-6559-8
Per Aspera Press, April 2, 2015 – 256 pages. Available in hardcover and e-book.
When you’re living in a teen novel, everything is bad. Alcohol? Bad. Mean girls at school? Bad. Cults? Bad. Being a werewolf without even knowing it? Bad, bad, bad.
Self-Abnegation, a small, red-headed girl, has always lived at New Harmony, a cult in Louisiana. Subjected to regular beatings, solitary confinement, and having her head shaved, at 15, Abnegation decides it’s time to leave.
Abnegation catches a ride with a tattooed, pregnant woman in her twenties named Steph Marchande. Steph gives Abnegation a new name, Abby, and takes her in as an adopted sister, and they travel to Seattle to start a new life. Abby goes to an all-girls school called Saint Sebastian, the same school Steph went to as a girl. She doesn’t have many friends until she punches a guy for touching her boob. Defending herself gives her wicked street cred (as it should). At the same time, Abby finds that, when provoked, she abruptly loses time. When she wakes, she finds herself . . . well, naked and in strange places. As she learns more about herself and the wolf inside of her, Abby also learns that anyone she bites (while she’s in wolf form) becomes just like her.
In order to protect Steph and her new baby, Terry, Abby flees Seattle and returns to the one place she fears, New Harmony, in order to learn the truth and expose the cult for what it is.
McGalliard’s prose are tight and precise, and Abby’s narration reads like a diary. Although the title hints at humor, Waking Up Naked in Strange Places is a teen drama at its core, reminiscent of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.
This is Julie MacGalliard’s first book, although her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies. She lives in Seattle with her husband and works as a web developer for Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
As with all art, there’s a large degree of subjectivity in determining if it’s “good,” or “not good.” The best I can do is provide my thoughts and opinions, and rate this book on an arbitrary scale of candies, the best being cinnamon bears, the worst being candy corn wrapped in circus peanuts. I give Waking Up Naked in Strange Places Necco Wafers. I can understand how some people like Necco Wafers, as they give the sugar rush they promise. Similarly, there were sections in Waking Up Naked in Strange Places that felt a bit like a ride on a wooden roller coaster — a few bumps and whip-lashing transitions, but MacGalliard ultimately delivers on her promise: instead of focusing on the werewolf aspect, McGalliard focuses on Abby’s teenage angst and drama. And for some readers, that’s about as addicting as eating an entire package of Necco Wafers.
The final third of Waking Up Naked in Strange Places is an excellent example of what McGalliard is capable of, and I hope that McGalliard’s next book takes every opportunity to hook its claws into her readers right away.
Interesting fact: Abby is a vegetarian.
Interesting quote: “The flames begin to lick at my sister’s flesh, bringing forth a roasting meat smell that nearly makes me hungry. No, that’s wrong. It makes me feel sick.”