Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

By Kristen O'neal

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses, a novel by Kristen O'neal
Book details

Stories about monsters were told back in the day as a way of making people scared. And they should be. How do you stop a curious child from walking in the woods at night or going for a swim in a deep lagoon? You speak of vampires, werewolves and merfolk that are there to eat them. This may not be true, but there were enough real wolves and underwater currents to kill them. In 2021, we have shined a light on all these dark places, so monsters no longer seem so real, but how would a modern society react to such horrors? Would we chase them with pitchforks or use modern medicine to see if there was a cure?  

Priya is on the fast track to a medical degree when she hits a speedbump in the form of Lymes Disease. Suddenly, she is back home with the family in constant pain, weak and an inability to concentrate. Relief comes in the form of an online chatroom of other young people with chronic illnesses. Priya is particularly close to Brigid, who has her own reoccurring problems in the form of Lycanthropy. 

I am no longer in the flush of youth myself, so the characters in Kristen O’Neal’s Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses felt alien enough to me without the concepts of chronic illness and werewolves thrown in. However, it is the job of an author to make a book accessible if they wish and O’Neal does a tremendous job of introducing the reader to a group of older teenagers and those in their 20s. This is done mostly online and as the book progresses, we learn more about the people behind the handle. As the main protagonist we learn most about Priya, but via her friendship with Brigid, we also learn about Brigid’s unusual malady. This is a union that soon evolves past online and into the real world. 

One aspect of the book I enjoyed was the use of chat rooms and text messages to tell parts of the story. These sections rarely pushed the narrative on but gave a great insight into the characters. It shows that if you find the right community for you, the internet is a power for good and not just a place that trolls live. Lycanthropy is a book about werewolves and their lore, but it is also about illness. These chatroom sessions never forget this. 

Viewing the concept of being a werewolf through the prism of illness is a great idea. Priya is the perfect character for this. She is pre-Med so knows some stuff, but not too much. This means that O’Neal uses the character to introduce the reader to the ideas alongside her.  

With such strong relationships in the book, it is enjoyable just to follow Priya as she deals with her family, friendships, illness, and thoughts about whether she will ever get to return to health. However, there is more to the book than this. Brigid is losing control of her metamorphosis, and this leads to some action sequences were Priya and a new Animal Control friend must catch her before someone decides to shoot the thing that looks like a rabid dog/wolf hybrid, that just happens to be wearing a comical t-shirt. 

The heart of the book is the relationship between Priya and Brigid. It is one that started on a mutual interest in chronic illnesses but grows into one of soulmates. There is a real love between the characters that you feel as you read the book. The friction is also good. O’Neal never forgets the chronic elements of the book and Priya’s constant need to help Brigid leads to as many arguments as it does resolutions. O’Neal treats all the different Chronic Illnesses with respect in the book and the idea that one is Lycanthropy does not undermine the intelligent handling of the genuine issues. 

Written on 5th May 2021 by .

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