Bitten – review

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong.  (Beware of spoilers later on.)

My roommate forced this book on me—I should say that first.  That isn’t to say the book was bad—quite the opposite.  But it’s not the kind of book I would have picked up on my own.

This is a story of a woman, named Elena, who is a reluctant werewolf.  She lives in the human world, with her human boyfriend, doing so called “human” things, and generally avoiding as much to do with her own lycanthropy and other werewolves as is physically possible.  She has to Change every now and then (nothing to do with phases of the moon), and she has to hide it from her boyfriend because if he knew, he would kick her to the curb (so she believes).

But when her old Pack starts having some major trouble, she can’t resist going back and checking things out, to see if she can help.  And did I mention she’s the only female werewolf in the world?

The Pack consists of an older werewolf who presents something of a fatherly figure to Elena, an overly obnoxious and toxic werewolf who is constantly trying to get into Elena’s pants, and a couple other charming fellows who miss her when she’s gone and seem to only want her to be happy if it involves her doing what they want her to do.  But she loves them all and with dead people showing up on and around their property, there’s no way she can just turn her back on them.  The dead people all look like they’ve been mauled by giant dogs, but the Pack knows better.

Mutts are on the loose, and the more they kill, the more danger the Pack is in.  When a member of the Pack is murdered, Elena goes out for blood.  The question is, can she get all this done and still return to her human boyfriend?

This is a well-written book, but I’m going to say it fails the Bechdel test.  It’s in a gray area, I suppose—there are two other named female characters who talk to Elena, one of whom talks about dresses for a wedding, but the conversation lasts all of a half a page, and then those characters are never seen again.  Elena is the only named female character for the rest of the book—so, from page 20 to page 436, it’s Elena and a bunch of boys.  Boy after boy after boy, urgh.  There’s a lot of action and good non-romancey stuff, and yet, all the characters continue to be boys.

Elena holds her own against them, for the most part.  She’s got her strengths and weaknesses.  She observant and interesting, quite the charming character and it was a lot of fun to go through this story with her.

Spoilers here!  I normally try to avoid spoilers in my book reviews, but knowing this would have affected whether or not I wanted to read the book, so let’s go.  The overly obnoxious and toxic werewolf I mentioned up there?  He is constantly telling Elena that she doesn’t really want to be in the human world—that she actually wants to be with him and the other werewolves, no matter how frequently she tells him otherwise.  She says she doesn’t like being so violent as the werewolf community makes her, she doesn’t like being the way she is and she wants to change and be as human as possible—and he keeps saying, “Nope, you’re fooling yourself, I know you better than you do.”  And the worst part is, at the end of the book, she agrees with him.  It’s a story of women not actually knowing what they want, of men knowing what’s best, of how women should listen to men and throw away their own desires and thoughts and follow men.  It’s also a story of how, if a woman doesn’t like who she is, too bad, she’s stuck with it and the men who surround her because of it.

Bitter?  Yes.  Elena is, for most of the book, a strong woman who happens to keep falling into bed with a guy she claims she doesn’t want to be with… but the ending pretty much ruined her for me.  I’m all for women characters developing into people they thought they didn’t want to be, but in this case, it feels so much more like she’s submitting to this guy because he has a stronger personality than her human boyfriend.  And clearly women must submit to the strongest man who wants to have sex with her.

So, 3/5 GR stars.  This is just the first book in the series, but I probably won’t be reading more of them (unless my roommate really wants me to, heh—she says there are more women in the later books).

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ