Book Review: The Alpha's Son By Penny Jessup


The Alpha’s Son

By Penny Jessup

Narrated by Michael Mola

YA LGBTQ+ Paranormal Romance

★★★


The Alpha’s Son is an incredibly adorable and tense and funny story packed with incredible characters and a nonchalant approach to the supernatural romance genre. Pair that with the incredibly narration done by Michael Mola and you have readers hooked until the very end. Still, despite the strong prose, strong, interesting characters and a relatable main character just looking for love, the lack of a compelling plot leaves a lot to be desired.


The Alpha’s Son follows Max Remus, a teenage werewolf just looking to do teenager things in New York City with his best friend Katie. The story kicks off when Max accidentally bumps into a broody, moody, angsty teenage boy whose scent drives Max up the wall. After the stranger flees, Max is left wondering why he seems so interested in this strange, rude boy. Then Max is invited to the Blue Moon Festival, where the moon heightens the path between souls and lights a way to a werewolf’s mate. Max wants nothing to do with mates, so he coasts his way through the entire festival apathetic to his mate-obsessed fellow werewolves. But turns out, that broody, moody angsty boy is the alpha’s son, Jasper Apollo, and even worse... Max’s mate. When the Alpha’s son’s best friend is kidnapped by a pack of rogue werewolves, Max and Jasper are forced to team up to find her. A conspiracy against the alpha unravels... and love begins to blossom.


I have to be honest: Michael Mola’s narration brought this book up from a strong 3.5 star review to a 5 star review. The versatility and the range of his narration took me by such a surprise that I genuinely thought they had a separate narrator narrating the female characters of the story. The way he casually dips in and out of masculine and feminine voices in all sorts of different pitches while still conveying the emotions on the page really makes the whole audiobook feel like a one-man play. The over-the-top teen drama is made believable to adult readers and spins you back into your teenage days when you were lovesick over some stupid crush who would rather have nothing to do with you. With detailed prose and a compelling performance, The Alpha’s Son feels like you’re watching a movie.


With that being said, the plot slows incredibly after the first half when the Blue Moon Festival is over. Much of the plot is reduced to Max pining over Jasper, who seems perfectly content with never seeing Max ever again, despite the two of them being destined to be soul mates.


While I understand the plot’s need to push Max and Jasper away from one another, Jasper’s coldness sometimes came across as abusive and partially unnecessary especially when he tries choosing another mate and cruelly invites Max to watch. Even worse, the insistence that Max keep reaching out to Jasper despite his cruelty left me frustrated, turning Jasper from a charming, mysterious type to just another emotionally unavailable asshole who seems to relish in the fact he’s hurting Max.


While Jasper seems like a complicated character throughout the first half of the book—an Alpha’s son destined to carry on the Alpha line by entering into a bond with a female wolf while resisting Max, a guy, who turns out to be his mate—the last half of the book ditches that complexity for the sake of stretching on an unnecessary and excessively immature back and forth between the pair, even for two teenagers. The feelings Max has for him seem completely one sided toward Jasper with barely any hint that Jasper has any intentions of reciprocating those feelings. We don’t get enough of Jasper’s character being present, so we are left only hoping he feels the same way about Max and that’s only made believable because we know as the reader how crazy mates drive werewolves wild for each other.


Even stranger, the last half of the book introduces the true villain of the story through a plot twist that left no breadcrumbs for the reader to follow through a half-baked mystery. A mystery doesn’t work when you obscure the clues that might lead to solving that mystery while leaving behind false leads for the reader. Perhaps it was because the final villain of the novel was meant to be somewhat comedic, and if that was the intention than it certainly did succeed. But if it was written to be a serious, believable mystery, then it certainly missed the mark.


With the promise of a second book due to the cliff hanger of an ending, I do still plan to read the second book whenever it releases.


Despite the wrinkles in the plot, Penny Jessup’s prose is detailed, thoughtful and incredibly compelling. The teenage immaturity of romance was captured perfectly and convincingly to adult readers and probably relatable and humorous to teen readers—something that, I find, few writers can captivate without making things too cliché and leaving readers rolling their eyes. This was, after all, Jessup’s debut novel, so I am certainly intrigued to see how they grow going forward in their writing career. I’m hoping by the time the second book is written, they’ve improved on crafting plot, because this is an author I am now rooting for and I really do hope they succeed.


Reviewed by David T. Valentin

Published by Tiny Ghost Press, February 2022, Audio May 2022