REVIEW: ‘Artie and the Moon Wolf’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Artie and the Moon Wolf

I’ve got to say, it is great to see your faves win! Following Olivia Stephens‘ career for a minute means I’ve seen her comics work, covers, and artwork on my timeline on social media. So seeing her debut graphic novel feels like a dream come true!  Lerner Publishing Group’s imprint, Graphic Universe, has brought us Stephen’s debut graphic novel, Artie and the Wolf Moon, for the middle-grade-aged crowd who love the paranormal along with graphic novels and comics that veer into indie territory. With the help of, to quote the author, her incredible army of flatterers and assistants, this book’s publication was made possible from people including Mercedes Catarina Acosta, Julianna Morales, and Umaimah Damakka. Kim Morales also contributed to the design of the jacket cover.

Artie Irvin knows she’s different. She’s not the sort to keep her head in the clouds but keep her heart in taking her camera out and photographing the world and getting to develop the film that captures her life’s views. She tries to blend into the background and stay out of the thick of things but fails; she sticks out like a sore thumb to the worst people in all the wrong ways. She’s almost like a Black girl out of time, and she can’t figure out why. This kid is always in the wrong place, and she hates it. All she’s got in this world is her widowed mother, and they live in rural Oregon.

One fateful night she spots a massive wolf―then watches it throw on a bathrobe and transform into her mom! Mom is a werewolf which means so is Artie. Mom has been waiting for the “right time” to share their family’s lineage, calling for a road trip back home, a place where her mother never thought she’d return to. Artie is beyond thrilled, which means there’s good and bad. She gets to figure out her own wolf-like abilities with a community, and she also learns about the story of her late father and the big evil behind the big trauma in her life: Vampires!

Stephens weaves several big themes into this marvelous narrative―the need for community, the desire to figure out who you are in the weird phase of puberty and growing up, and how inter-generational healing can come in waves, so the story doesn’t always stop at trauma. Add to this narrative majesty that this is a story of a queer, pre-teen Black girl who ends up having a crush on a new friend, and that aspect of the story does not evolve into sad, humiliating plot territory. Spoiler alert: there are no tired tropes like ‘kill your gays’ or ‘terrible high school humiliation scene’ here, folks!

On another note, flashbacks can be hard to execute well. Yet, here the author presents them artfully. The story of how Artie’s parents met and their struggles for daring to toe the line of two worlds are chapters that are both heartbreaking and so narrative rich that you’ll be in awe while holding your heart in your hands.

In media, from television shows to YA fiction, I’m so used to seeing the token person of color in supernatural settings old and new—the one Black witch, the one Latine fairy, the one Asian warlock, and so and so on (I see you, Bonnie Bennett, I see you, Magnus Bane!). There have always been more than one of us, but there are never many mainstream properties that explore more of us in settings that don’t cast us away as side characters to be used as plot fodder. Artie and the Wolf Moon explores not just this Black mother-daughter dynamic, but this community and the other Black Werewolf families that Artie’s mom introduces her to. It was just so delightful I had to pause several times to wipe my eyes. It is utterly beautiful and illuminating to see so many Black folks on the page, all of which are interesting characters with personalities, truths, and expressions. Every character is multi-dimensional and never falls flat and only adds to the story’s richness, which is at least half the cost of admission here, folks.

Stephens’ artwork here is both a thrill to look at and connect with. And look…you never know what book you need until it is one about a Black preteen girl who has a werewolf lineage sitting at home in her satin bonnet. My heart! Stephen has also played up light and color in her comics and other illustrative work so well that it makes sense that Artie and the other Black characters never, ever look washed out or forgotten on the pages. Even though much of the action takes place at night, and as day makes way for dusk, the werewolf transformation sequences are always new, fresh, and dope to look at. And given that the big baddies in the book are vampires, it is so interesting to see their contrast—how they blend in, fight, and terrorize generation after generation.

At 256 pages, this graphic novel effectively fills out a full story that ends with closure and a lot of heart. Paced well with all the right emotional beats, this book will be adored by the middle-grade age group by those eager readers looking for more Black girls in their graphic novels. The author has been quoted as saying that “the book is about family, community-building, making mistakes, and facing your fears” if you’re on board for that, be sure to purchase it when available in your area!

Artie and The Wolf Moon is a beautiful, coming-of-age tale that we don’t see often and should see more of. If you love your stories about queer Black girls learning about the world with a heavy dose of family and growing up along with a supernatural twist—this one is for you.

Artie and the Wolf Moon is now available where books are sold.

Artie and the Wolf Moon
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TL;DR

Artie and The Wolf Moon is a beautiful, coming-of-age tale that we don’t see often and should see more of. If you love your stories about queer Black girls learning about the world with a heavy dose of family and growing up along with a supernatural twist—this one is for you.