Monsters by Emerald Fennell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
**** 4 Cranky Stars ****
What do two monsters do when the pass each other in the forest?
And so this book began. Monsters fits into The Wasp Factory category, but is a completely original work. Told from the point of view of an unnamed twelve-year-old girl, Monsters is set in the small coastal town of Fowey, Cornwall, England.
Orphaned at a young age, the narrator has an uncomfortable view of the world and isn’t afraid to share her observations. She is fascinated with the macabre and drawn to darkness.
“I got the feeling that was what you’d see if you peeled back my skin: ribbons of black spaghetti all coiled up behind my ribcage.”
After her parents’ death, she is sent to live with her grandmother, but in the summer holidays, she is regularly and ritually packed off to stay with her aunt and uncle who own the local hotel in Fowey. In this small coastal town, whose main claim to fame is Daphne Du Maurier wrote there, a body is found in the ocean. As the body count mounts, so does our narrator’s fascination. Into this environment walks Miles, a boy of a similar age to the narrator and a kindred spirit.
The two insert themselves into the murders, negotiating watchful and cruel, not to mention overbearing adults.
This was a fascinating – if uncomfortable read. At times funny and insightful, at others, it was down right sinister. Fennell has a knack for writing gore without it being too bloody. Instead, she leaves enough room for the reader’s imagination to conjure images and fill in the blanks.
What I particularly enjoyed were the descriptions of toxic adults. This is not so much as ‘herstory’ from below, but a view from the side. Uncomfortably, this might not be a case of children being made ‘this’ way, but born the way they were where their environments weren’t helpful.
Further observations: the ending did not surprise me, but it didn’t offer me comfort either. Watching our narrator trying to please the only friend she ever had was heartbreaking. Some of the encounters with other people had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the name of the cat – if not its fate.
After reading other reviews, it seems clear you either really like or don’t like this book. I really liked it and wished I'd read it at Halloween.
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