“Well-structured time shifts will keep readers hooked, as will the richly described shifts from girl to wolf. Griffo paints clear, detailed physical and psychological descriptions of the red-haired heroine and the red-furred wolf she becomes.”
“Griffo is back with a great read for any shapeshifter fan.”
—RT Book Reviews
MOONGLOW is about a 16-year-old girl who falls victim to a family curse. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot at this point! But just like with the Archangel Academy series, while the supernatural elements are unique and vital to the story, the theme of the series is something quiet simple – the friendship between Dominy and Jess. Friends since kindergarten, their lives are forever changed on the night of Dominy’s 16th birthday when the curse kicks in. It’s a testament to their devotion to one another and their sisterly love that they remain friends against insurmountable odds.
If you haven’t started MOONGLOW yet, here’s the heart-pounding opening that sets the story in motion.
The moon is dark and cold and light
The moon commands our souls at night
Alone, ignored, and ugly – she
I am the moon,
the moon is me.
I am about to become a very bad person.
The change begins slowly, but not unexpectedly. Not entirely. There have been warning signs, I just didn’t understand them. Until now. Now I know an enemy has been stalking me, watching me, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When I scream I know that moment has finally arrived.
My screams tear through my body, gush out of my mouth, and infest the night air. They’re the last sounds I hear before my world turns black. The last sounds I hear from when I was still good.
The first thing I notice when I wake up is that I don’t feel any more pain. I no longer feel the burning. I no longer feel as if my limbs are being ripped out of their sockets, as if saws and teeth and knives are splitting my flesh open from the inside out. I no longer feel as if my body wants to kill me. That’s the good news. The bad news is I have no idea what happened. The space between then and now is empty. One second I was happy, the next I was feeling worse than I ever thought humanly possible.
So I’m alive, but where am I? Forcing myself to remain calm, I take a deep breath and the smell of grass and dirt and cold assaults me. I’m definitely outside, but exactly where, I don’t know. I remember passing out when the pain got too intense, when I literally thought I was going to break into separate, unconnected pieces, but for how long? How long was I unconscious? And what happened to me while I gave in to the protection of sleep?
Now that I’m awake, I know that something is wrong. I can feel my body and yet I can’t, I’m both numb and tingling at the same time. Even still, I think I’m smiling because I’m thankful that I’m not dead. The thing is, I just can’t believe that I’m alive.
I step on the sharp edge of a rock and it feels like a knife blade has punctured the underside of my foot. The sting terrifies me because it reminds me of the original pain, if it starts again I don’t think I can survive it twice. How lucky can one person get?
I try to remember the prayer I used to say with my mother, but it’s been too long since I’ve said those words and anyway I’m distracted by the breathing. Loud, quick breaths, one after another after another, like panting. I don’t know where the sound is coming from, but I don’t like it. It sounds like a wild dog or worse, a coyote or a mountain lion, frightening. Whatever is making that noise sounds like it’s right in front of me, staring at me, but I can’t feel the breath on my face, I can only hear it. Before this change all I heard was laughter, mine and Jess’s, now all I hear is breathing. But the worst part is that I can hardly see.
Someone’s wrapped a plastic bag around my head, that’s what it feels like, clear plastic, tight around my face, and they’re trying to suffocate me. I imagine what my face looks like pressed up against a plastic bag, my mouth and my eyes wide open, desperate to see and to breathe and I shake my head because the image is too ugly, I want it out of my mind. I can’t feel anything around my neck and I don’t feel anyone near me so that calms me, but I cannot see right. Nothing is clear. Shadows and blurs, that’s it, swirling around my head making me dizzy so I close my eyes again, but the blackness makes me even more unsteady. If I’m going to faint, I’m going to faint regardless if my eyes are open or not so I might as well keep them open and try to figure out where I am.
We were outside near the low hills, me and Jess, on our way to my house before this started so maybe that’s where I am now. But when I try to focus to remember more details the breathing sounds faster, like whoever is doing it is hyperventilating. This anxious feeling, this sense of having no control grabs hold of me too and I get dizzy again. I don’t want to faint, but I don’t know if you can prevent such a thing from happening. Focus and fight. I need to concentrate on specific things and not the swirls and the shadows that are making me unsteady. What do I know? What do I know? Think! Think of the simplest thing, the stupidest thing. My name. I know that my name is Dominy Robineau. My mother wanted to call me Dominique because she’s French, but my father thought it was too fancy for a Midwestern girl so they settled on Dominy.
Good, I feel better. Still a bit dizzy, but still conscious. My father’s motto has always been ‘be grateful for what you have’ and I finally understand what that saying means.
What else do I know? It’s almost winter. Yes, that’s right! But the air is more dry than cold which is odd for Nebraska at this time of year since it should be frigid and the ground should be invisible underneath the snow. However, the past few weeks have felt different, more like early fall and I remember hearing people say that it was a relief and they wished it could last forever. That’s a wasted wish because nothing lasts forever. Trust me.
One moment I was in control of my body and now it’s fighting against me. My head is spinning, my mind wants to shut down, and the only thing I can hear is the sound of that breathing! It’s closer now, like someone’s mouth is right up against my ear. My arms shoot up to feel if someone’s next to me, but I only feel the swoosh of air. Vaguely, I see my arms moving in front of me, in slow motion so they look bigger, darker, but even though they’re moving slowly, I can’t get a clear look. Plus, I know I wasn’t wearing a red jacket. I feel like I’m floating, wrapped tightly in a grass-scented plastic bag and floating and it feels incredibly wrong. So wrong that my body rebels.
I fall and the sound of me crashing to the ground echoes in my ears replacing the sound of the breathing for a few seconds. I taste dirt. Not that it matters, but I don’t know if I’m lying face down on the ground or if I’m kneeling and I made dirt rise up in a little cloud and fill my mouth because I fell so hard. I give into a strange impulse and start to claw at the earth, really dig in and I can feel the coolness of the dirt underneath my nails. The sensation is calming, inviting, and I want to stretch out and roll in it, cover my entire body with cool dirt, but I hear a voice and freeze.
The voice isn’t Jess’s, it’s coming from inside my head. Even more calming than the dirt, the voice belongs to my mother. Her slight French accent makes her words sound pretty, makes her sound as if she’s singing.
Remember Dominy, you are blessed.
The first time she said that to me was on my fifth birthday. Later, she wrote those words down in my card so I would never forget them. Yes! Now I remember! Today is November 29th. Today is my birthday.
Slowly, instinctively, I lift my head to look up toward the sky and watch as the clouds separate to reveal a full moon. Magnificent. As welcoming as the unexpected return of a long lost friend, as reassuring as a parent checking in on you as you pretend to sleep. Why have I never noticed how beautiful the moon can look until tonight? Round and radiant and perfect. But the moon is so much more than physical perfection. It has powers. Its glow is like a lifeline that connects my past to my present to my future. Every secret ever buried will be revealed when trapped within the light of the moon. All I need to do is accept the moon as my teacher, my guide, my master and I can become powerful too.
A bright flash of light flickers on the ground like a lonely, restless flame and I’m drawn to it. Scurrying closer to the light-dance, I almost laugh when I see what’s creating such a commotion on the flat, dry land – my watch reflecting the glow of the moon. It’s already begun. The moon is calling to me, offering a clue.
The powder blue band is scuffed and smeared with dirt, the face is smudged and cracked, but I can see the numbers and I can see that it’s still working. The second hand ticks along, one second, two seconds, three, until it dawns on me that I can see clearly, no more shadows. Once again I know, somehow, that this change is the moon’s doing.
I keep looking at my watch waiting for it to do something special and realize that it already has. The last thing I remember is standing next to Jess, her shoulder pressing into mine, her hair fragrant with the scent of cherry blossoms, and we were watching the second hand on my watch tick away until it reached 6:22 p.m. That’s when I officially turned sixteen. Almost fifteen minutes ago. Why can’t I remember what happened during that lost time?
I look up at the moon again because deep inside me, I know it’s responsible. All the answers to my questions, even those I haven’t yet asked, can be found in its glow, in its perfection. A large gray cloud with coarse edges slides across the face of the moon changing its appearance. Radiance turns into something ominous. Could this be another clue? Or perhaps a warning that something even worse is about to happen? The revelation frightens me and along with a renewed sense of fear, come the shadows.
The world changes in front of my eyes and sketchy black and white images return, but this time they’re not alone. Accompanying them are noises, grunts and groans, sounds I can’t recognize, but sounds that I can’t ignore. Until I hear the screams.
These screams sound different than the ones I let loose into the air. These drip not only with the fear of the unknown, but also with the desperation and horror of knowing what lies ahead. They’re unlike any sound I’ve ever heard before and it’s as if they’re tainting the air with their fear. The screams are all around me, but I can’t tell where they’re coming from. Could be miles away, could be right next to me. It’s like I’m in a sealed room, no doors or windows, but the sound is so loud that it can penetrate the walls. What makes it totally unbearable is that I can hear enough to know whoever is screaming is in serious trouble.
My heart pounds in my chest and I hear the breathing again, wild panting, uncontrollable. Then I feel my stomach push out, contract, push out, contract, and I know that I’m the one making those sounds. I’m the one whose breathing is out of control. Fear grips every inch of my body and my mind, it has taken complete control of me and I’m helpless. I can’t even control my own breathing!
Another sound cuts right through the screams and the breathing and it silences them both. The fear inside of me intensifies because I’ve heard this sound before. It’s a growl. And when you’re outside near the hills, away from people and closer to the animals, hearing a growl is never a good thing.
Finally, my body starts to move. I feel the ground shift underneath me as I run toward the screams. My vision starts to come back, maybe because I’m reclaiming control of my body, so I push ahead. Even though the moon resembles the midday sun, spreading light from its rocky, barren surface, I still can’t see very well and when I hear another growl, I turn my head too quickly causing my eyes to glaze over and I trip on some rocks. The ground shakes or maybe it’s just my body, I can’t tell. But this time I know that my face is pressed against the ground. I taste the dirt, I can smell it, it’s all over me, and I can feel filth burrow deep inside of me.
The growl is deafening and I’ve got to move on. But when I push into the ground to stand up, the earth feels even more invigorating and I can’t, I need to stay right here, holding onto dirt and rocks, feeling connected to the soil. Suddenly, the fear is gone. I’m not scared any more, I’m confident, vengeful. I look up at the moon and hear my voice turn into a howl. The sound is odd, but I know that it’s mine. I howl again, this time holding the sound longer and letting it grow so it becomes louder, more powerful, more like my mother’s.
Remember Dominy, you are blessed.
All I want is for our voices to join together and become one, but we’re interrupted. A louder scream erupts near me and I recognize the voice. It belongs to Jess.
I’ve never heard her scream like this and I’ve known her my entire life. She screams again, this time the sound pierces my ear, it’s like she’s right next to me and her scream turned into a knife. Before I can touch my ear to feel if I’m bleeding the growls start again, louder and more ferocious. Another surge of terror rips through me, grabbing my insides, and I feel my body shake violently, something’s on me or in me, attacking me or Jess or both of us, I don’t know, but I have to break free! This time when I fall I land on something softer, maybe some grass instead of the flat ground. I’m about to look down to find out what it is when an unfamiliar taste fills my mouth.
It’s new and it’s bitter and I like it. It tastes good and when I swallow I don’t even hear the growls anymore, it’s like every sound has stopped, every part of my world has ceased to exist and nothing has any importance except this new taste. It’s heaven and I have got to have more of it.
There’s another scream, higher-pitched, like Jess’s voice is being strangled and made to disappear. I only want to concentrate on the taste in my mouth, but I have to find her, I have to figure out a way to help her. Despite the fact that I can taste and hear and even smell extremely well, better than ever before, my sight isn’t good. I still feel like I’m inside a box or a sack. Like the plastic bag that I thought was around my head is now wrapped around my entire body. I can see outside, but it’s all hazy and vague and warped. The world around me is filled with shadows, fast moving shadows, and I wonder if it’s the same for Jess. Or does she see everything clearly? Is the moon acting like a spotlight illuminating her whole world?
Oh my God. Maybe that’s why she’s screaming. Because she can see what’s out there.
I’m holding something in my hand. I don’t know what it is, but it’s soft and hard at the same time. I think it might be a branch, thick and caked with dirt and mud that you find near the riverbanks. But I don’t smell fresh water and I don’t hear the gentle flow of the current so I know I’m not near the river. I must still be near the low hills, where I was when I passed out. Jess and I were running in the dried up fields at the base of the hills because I was going to be late and my father told me to be home before the moon changes everything.
No, that isn’t what he said. He didn’t say anything about the moon. I shake my head from side to side to trick my body into remembering. Now I remember, he told me to get home before it got too dark.
Once again, Jess screams my name and I forget about my father. I want to scream back, I want to tell her that I’m here, that I can hear her and that I’m trying to help her, but I can’t find my voice. It’s gone. Furious, I squeeze the branch or whatever I’m holding in my hand tighter, squishing it, and the thing starts to move like it’s trying to break free from my hold.
Jess screams my name, frantically, over and over again. My body trembles because I recognize something in her voice, something that horrifies me even more than not being able to see clearly. It’s the way she said my name, shouted it, like she was afraid of me, like she was begging. She screams my name again, a sound that rises high and gets swallowed up by the night, the darkness, the moon, and then there’s nothing. No sound, no Jess. It’s silent and it’s dark, but I’m warm and I feel good. Better than I have in months.
When I wake up the good feeling is gone because I can see again. I don’t need a watch to know that it’s morning, very early because the sun is just starting to rise above the horizon. The air is chilly, but my body is still warm from sleep so I don’t shiver. I look down at myself and I’m stunned to see that I’m covered in dirt and blood and I’m naked. Naked?!
My clothes are next to me in a heap, ripped and torn, even my sneakers. Quickly, I get dressed, pissed off that there’s a huge tear in my good pair of school khakis from the middle of my thigh to just under my knee, even my retro Pumas are ruined, the soles are practically torn off. Fear slowly coils around my heart and my mind as I contemplate what could have created such damage.
I collect the strips of material of my shirt to bring them together in an attempt to cover my exposed skin. When I look over to the left, all thoughts of myself and my clothes are gone. The horror and the shock and the agony in my screams remind me of the sounds I made last night. But these screams aren’t made because I’m in pain, I scream because I see Jess staring at me. Her eyes are still wide open, but instinctively I know that she’s dead.
I can’t turn away even though pieces of flesh on her arms and legs are ripped off and I can see her bones, smooth and pure white. I never knew my friend had marble underneath her skin. A breeze stirs her hair and makes her eyelashes flutter. Hope makes me gasp when I realize I could be wrong, maybe she isn’t dead!
Reaching out to touch her, I gently shake her body, I desperately want to witness a miracle and see that she’s still alive. Even if I knew the words, I don’t think my prayers would be answered because no one is listening and Jess doesn’t wake up. I shake her harder, then let go as I watch her body move back and forth, back and forth until the momentum subsides and she’s still again. I was right the first time, she’s dead.
Her body’s cold and hard, nothing like mine. I stare at my hand not because I’m repulsed by having just touched a dead body but because I see something. Pieces of someone else’s flesh are wedged underneath my fingernails and I know those pieces used to be part of Jess’s body. I don’t remember how this happened, it’s just another instinct.
I clutch my stomach and fall back onto the ground, the palm of my right hand slams into the dirt and digs into the earth to keep me upright as I vomit. I watch the rancid liquid spill out of my mouth to drench a cluster of rocks and I feel the warmth finally start to flee my body, wanting no part of me. The stench burns my nostrils and I turn away from the poison to look at Jess or what’s left of her. I can’t support myself any longer and I collapse onto the ground.
Looking at Jess, I’m consumed by two thoughts that I believe to be facts: my best friend is dead and I’m the one who killed her.