Title- Lycanthropy and other Chronic Illnesses
Author- Kristen O’Neal
Publisher- Quirk Books
Publication Date- April 27th 2021
Genre- YA contemporary fantasy
Comment- I was given a free copy Via Quirk books. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced by the moon.
Priya worked hard to pursue her premed dreams at Stanford, but a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease during her sophomore year sends her back to her loving but overbearing family in New Jersey―and leaves her wondering if she’ll ever be able to return to the way things were.
Thankfully she has her online pen pal, Brigid, and the rest of the members of “oof ouch my bones,” a virtual support group that meets on Discord to crack jokes and vent about their own chronic illnesses.
When Brigid suddenly goes offline, Priya does something out of character: she steals the family car and drives to Pennsylvania to check on Brigid. Priya isn’t sure what to expect, but it isn’t the horrifying creature that’s shut in the basement.
With Brigid nowhere to be found, Priya begins to puzzle together an impossible but obvious truth: the creature might be a werewolf―and the werewolf might be Brigid. As Brigid’s unique condition worsens, their friendship will be deepened and challenged in unexpected ways, forcing them to reckon with their own ideas of what it means to be normal.
As soon as I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it. Having both an interest in paranormal crypids and a Chronic Illness myself I was excited to see where the author would go and I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Our main character is Priya who was a pre-med student at Stanford. She gets Lyme disease and is forced to return home to recover. Isolated from her friends who are continuing with their lives, Priya seeks solace online with fellow Chronic Sufferers of Tumblr. (Personally I thought Tumblr had disappeared so that really shows how “with-it” I currently am.)
Her online friends start a Discord group (I have one of those!! I’m not truly past it yet!) called ‘Oof my bones’ where they talk about their various illnesses and how it makes them feel. They turn into a wonderfully supportive community filled with gifs, memes and genuine concern.
Priya’s best friend online is Brigid whose illness is undiagnosed. Is it genetic? Is it a virus? Or was it passed along via parasite, like Priya’s own? After a few odd messages, however, Brigid disappears offline and Priya is so worried that she tracks her friend down only to discover that Brigid’s illness is more paranormal than parasitic.
Yup, she grows hairy and full of fangs once a month. Except its getting worse, and Brigid is scared she is going to remain a werewolf forever. Thankfully Priya is on the case, only how far is she willing to go to help?
I think what I really appreciated about this book was that the characters were so relatable and real. Priya feels grateful to her family and yet stifled by them at the same time. She mourns her old life and has bouts of understanding that this is her new normal, but simultaneously believes that she’ll recover.
Brigid wants to live alone and refuses to tell her parents she is suffering and yet is furious with her grandmother for her silence.
The discord group have good days and bad days and they joke about their illnesses as well as being frustrated by them. Their litany of things people say hit me hard as I could relate.
“You don’t look sick”, “Have you tried exercise?”, “What about essential oils?”, “What do you have to be depressed about?”, “Other people have it worse.”
The main message of the book seemed to be that it is ok not to be ok and you should try and gather people around you who understand and support you.
While that is a great message, it’s not always possible.
Much of the book is written in chat speak so some might find it difficult to follow. There are a also a lot of Gen Z phrases so it probably won’t age well.
It had some wonderful quotes about Chronic Illness such as this gem:
“I am starting to realize that a good day doesn’t mean no pain, anymore; it means that the pain is small enough to manage, a dog with it’s own leash.Priya. Lycanthropy and other Chronic Illnesses.
As Chronic Illness representation I found it relatable and enjoyable.
Possible Triggering or subject matter
There was a lot of furore, when the cover was released, over the fact that there was a POC and a werewolf on the cover. This was decried as racist and many felt that the author (being white) had no business writing a main character who was Tamil. There was also backlash against it being advertised as #ownvoices.
One review on Goodreads states:
Juxtaposing a dark-skinned brown character opposite a furry canine in the same pose is incredibly racist and hurtful. The idea of hairy brown people is also a historically racist stereotype, and using this on a cover by a white author who characterized this book as ownvoices is basically brownface.Aparna R. Goodreads review.
As a white person I cannot speak for any POC but this never even occurred to me. When I saw the cover I saw a werewolf and I saw a dark skinned character. As far as I was concerned they were two separate characters within the story and that is what it turned out to be.
I will not speak on cultural appropriation, saviourism or anything else that the book has been accused of. If you wish to read more on that here’s a link to the full review by Aparna on Goodreads.
For my own opinion. I genuinely enjoyed the book. The author could have explained a bit more about other diseases but, obviously, there was only so much space. She wanted to concentrate on Priya’s Lyme disease and Brigid’s lycanthropy. This wasn’t a medical text, it was a story.
And as a story it was great.