I'm going to confess something: I don't read a lot of werewolf books. It's not that I don't like them, but I typically don't find myself choosing them off the bookshelf. That said, I knew HEMLOCK was a book that had werewolves . . .
But when I read it, I didn't think, "This is a werewolf book." Because it's not about werewolves. It's a book about prejudice, friendship, loyalty, and mystery. It happens to have werewolves as part of the worldbuilding.
It's also a book that, according to the Publisher's Marketplace announcement, has a love triangle, but I didn't get the typical love triangle feel from it. Mac didn't spend her time pining over which boy to date; she spent her time trying to solve a murder mystery, helping her friends, and avoiding bloody death. And the love interests were also friends first, and potential kissing partners second.
The friends were all real, present, and fleshed out. I felt like I knew them. And while I wasn't as attached to one of the characters because he kept behaving like a jerk, I never questioned Mac's loyalty to him because she had strong memories of how things used to be, and their interactions made it clear that they used to be close -- and might some day be close again. He was a real, flawed person in pain. He was redeemable.
I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding in this book. Kathleen took a world where werewolves have been outed as a real threat, and began drawing it through the logical stages of confusion and fear and prejudice. There are people for and against werewolves, people who just want to be left alone, and people willing to judge werewolves individually rather than judge the entire population by one horror story. There are pro- and anti- posters and t-shirst, slurs, and terrifying "rehabilitation camps." The world of HEMLOCK feels real and scary.
But my favorite thing about HEMLOCK is Mac, the main character. She's strong. Not necessarily in the physical sense, but strong of heart. She cares deeply about her friends and her family. She doesn't trust easily, but for those who've earned it, she's unflinchingly loyal. And when she gets a hint that her best friend wasn't just killed by a werewolf, but murdered and someone may be trying to cover that up -- well, Mac takes it upon herself to seek out the truth, no matter how impossible it seems, and how much danger she must go through.
I'd recommend HEMLOCK to readers wanting an intriguing mystery and a deep look at a scary world.