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culture

Girls Get a Monster of Their Own

Emily Pohl-Weary's new novel, Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, is the story of a teenage girl dealing with both sudden fame and lycanthropy.

Emily Pohl-Weary. Photo courtesy of Penguin Group.

Toronto-based novelist Emily Pohl-Weary just wanted teenage girls to have a monster they could look up to.

While popular culture is full of werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural oddities, Pohl-Weary felt that too few of them were female. In her new young-adult novel, Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, she tries to correct the gender imbalance.

The book focuses on the struggles of Sam Lee, a shy, reserved 18-year-old bass player from New York City. Sam is going through two major life changes at the same time. The first one is that her band, The Cream Puffs, is experiencing an unexpected burst of success. The other is that a run-in with a “stray dog” has turned her into a werewolf.

Pohl-Weary says the book came about partly as a result of her interest in female monsters, and partly because she thought having a werewolf main character might make a good metaphor for growing up.

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“I’ve always been fascinated by female monsters and trickster figures, like Medusa, Baba Yaga, harpies, and the siren,” she says. “They don’t show up in pop culture as much as their male equivalents. Transforming into a werewolf seemed to me the perfect metaphor for inner rage and secrets that are just bursting to get out. There’s so much untapped potential in teen-girl characters.”

Pohl-Weary has a fair bit of experience writing about both teenage girls and monsters. In 2006, the former Broken Pencil editor dipped her toe into young-adult fiction with the book Strange Times at Western High, a story about a 16-year-old detective. In 2004, she edited the female superhero anthology Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks. She won a Hugo award in 2003 for her book Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, a biography of her grandmother, pioneering female science-fiction writer Judith Merril.

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl‘s launch party, which takes place on tonight at 461 King Street West, will feature local band The Beaches, an all-teen-girl rock band that has managed to get in regular rotation on MuchMusic. (The Beaches was one of the breakout bands at this year’s NXNE.)

“They’re a lot like the Toronto equivalent of The Cream Puffs,” Pohl-Weary says. “The Beaches’ hit song, ‘Loner,’ just works so perfectly, since Sam is a lone wolf, trying to figure things out.”

Pohl-Weary is already planning another novel starring Sam Lee, teenage werewolf bassist. In the mean time, she just hopes the book helps make her readers aware of their own power—and able to accept their own shortcomings.

“Teen girls are strong and can be pretty ferocious,” she says. “We all have terrible secrets that are waiting to burst out of us, and I think our journeys in life have to do with getting to a place where we’re okay with that. Arguably, in the surveillance age, none of us have privacy, so we need to accept our ‘monsters,’ since they are what make us unique.”

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