review: Artie and the Wolf Moon

title: Artie and the Wolf Moon
author: Olivia Stephens
date: Graphic Universe/Lerner; 2021
main character: Artie Irvin
YA graphic novel; fiction

Olivia Stephens is a graphic novelist from the Pacific Northwest region of the US. Her work includes illustrations for Fiyah Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, The NY Times and The Guardian. You may recognize her work from the cover of Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky. Artie and the Wolf Moon is her debut graphic novel.

I recently admitted in one of my posts that speculative fiction is not my thing. And horror? Werewolves, vampires, ghosts and such? OH! Heck no! Yet, I picked up Artie and the Wolf Moon and entered the realm of werewolves. Stephens’ graphic novel isn’t just about a werewolf. It’s about Artie, a high school student and her journey of self-discovery. She’s developing her talent as a photographer, an interest she got from her deceased father; exploring romance and realizing that she is a werewolf and exactly what that means. Through the community of werewolves that provide safety to Artie and her mom, we begin to distinguish ways of being from lore. Even those these are mythological beings (?) there’s a continuity in the legends that tell their tales.

As a child, I loved that these creatures resulted from the transformation of White people because that provided me a sense of safety; they weren’t in my community. Oh, the nightmares I would have! Then, along came Blacula and I lost a sense of protection. But here, under this wolf moon, the creatures are Black people who can transform into werewolves. Artie is learning how to make herself shift, a facet in her being that allows her to maintain her humanity. They are not portrayed as violent creatures who attack humans and destroy property. In this story, they’re trying to protect themselves. The story certainly has social and racial implications with werewolves (Blacks) attacked by vampires (Whites). However, the story’s conflict is in the supernatural rather that human realm.

The student at school can certainly sense something different about Artie. She’s that quiet geeky Black girl who gets picked on by her White classmates. She’s passionate, inquisitive, a fast runner and of interest to a couple of girls. She’s not a player, just still very naïve. I really enjoyed how well written this aspect of the story was; this sweet girl who wasn’t exactly slow, just experiencing something very new. She could have talked to her mom because they have a very close, loving relationship in the book, but she’s also developing a sense of independence; this is a YA story!

The story is propelled by Artie’s search for identity, particularly through her relationship with her father. Readers get to know her through her family’s background and that provides a sense of wholesomeness one might not expect from a werewolf. A lot happens in this quick moving 250ish page novel. Let me just say, Artie learns to howl. And, let me also say I didn’t have nightmares and I’d gladly read another Artie book, please!