Immortal Lycanthropes: Required reading for budding happy mutants and their grownups

Hal Johnson's Immortal Lycanthropes is a YA novel unlike any other. It's the story of Myron Horowitz, a horribly disfigured amnesiac orphan whose nice adoptive parents can't protect him from the savage beatings administered by the school bully every day. But then the bully is found bruised and battered and hurled through shatterproof glass, and Myron is found on the floor of the cafeteria, naked, with no sign of his clothes anywhere. And the adventure starts.

You see, Myron is an immortal lycanthrope, part of an ancient mythic race of human/animal hybrids -- one for every species of mammal -- who date back to the dawn of humanity. Nothing can kill him save another immortal in animal form, and there are plenty of those around, as it turns out. They have all come out of the woodwork to attempt to kidnap/kill/rescue/brainwash/claim/manipulate him, because he appears to be the first newborn immortal lycanthrope since the dawn of history.

Myron is off on a madcap trip across America, variously beaten and nearly killed and tricked and conned and even worshipped as he discovers the true nature of his race, and speculates about what animal might lurk within him.

Johnson has taken a slight idea -- his editor says that the book's genesis was a sarcastic remark about writing YA fiction, as in, "What, you want me to write about immortal lycanthropes or something?" -- and made something perfectly wonderful and wonderfully perfect out of it. A few chapters in, I flipped to the beginning of the book looking for an "about the author," only to notice that he'd dedicated the book to Daniel Pinkwater, who is the all-time world champion of weird amazing mind melting brilliant YA fiction. I knew then that I had found a writer who was going to pierce me like a very funny, very weird arrow.

And pierce me he did. Take one part Lemony Snicket, one part Boy's Life adventure, three measures of Daniel Pinkwater, a dash of Tex Avery mixed with Carlos Castenada, and you'd get something like Immortal Lycanthropes.

When I was twelve years old, my brain was blown clear out of my skull and into an erratic orbit by a Daniel Pinkwater novel called Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars. If I wanted to have the same effect on a bright 12 year old proto-mutant today, I might just hand her or him a copy of Immortal Lyncathropes. For the win.

Immortal Lycanthropes