Author: Emerald Fennell
Genre: Fiction, horror, mystery, YA, children’s
Where I got the book: I purchased this book through Book Depository.
My rating: ★★★★☆
Summary: In the Cornish town of Fowey, the body of a young woman is discovered in the fishing nets. She has been murdered. While the small town is in grief and shock, there is a twelve-year-old girl who is not. She loves murders and is delighted with these recent events. She starts her own investigation and is eventually joined by Miles Giffard, a twelve-year-old boy who is in Fowey on summer vacation and who has similar morbid interests. The investigation deepens, slowly revealing the town’s dark secrets and the children’s twisted humor.
“‘Peculiar’ is one of my least favourite words. Everyone is always describing me as ‘peculiar’, especially grown-ups. They called me peculiar when I gave the school gardener lemonade with wee in it, and they called me peculiar when I went to school wearing one of Granny’s suits. Grown-ups never understand any of my jokes, but then kids don’t really either.”
– Monsters, Emerald Fennell
I added this under the YA-genre but this is a book that’s actually a bit hard for me to place. I think it would qualify as YA, or even a children’s book, thanks to the twelve-year-old protagonists alone, and the narrative style definitely fits the age. But at the same time the themes were much darker and morbid than I expected! I would consider some of the events going down in the story and even the children’s behavior as something more suited for adult readers, but I think this contrast makes the book unique and interesting.
At one point this whole story kind of reminded me of an episode of “Midsomer Murders”, just without the police detectives. It’s set in a small, atmospheric town in the UK, it involves a good handful of strange, suspicious, and corrupt characters, and it has a mystery element that borders on the supernatural/mythical. “Monsters” is part a horror story (in many more ways than just the traditional sense), part a mystery/detective novel, and part a somewhat unusual coming of age story. The two child protagonists are undoubtedly original; they’re frighteningly morbid in a nonchalant way, nothing about them or what they do is sugarcoated, but they’re also largely misunderstood and mistreated. I think it’s interesting to see how different kinds of abuse, ranging from being ignored or always getting the blame, to being extremely overprotected and sheltered, can manifest in someone. Normally, some of this treatment should’ve been picked up on or reacted to a long time ago, but then again this happens in a vast sea of selfish and careless characters. As serious as I thought it was at times, I actually really enjoyed reading about the two protagonists and how they carried the story, especially the unnamed girl. She is very unsettling but at the same time she struggles with most of the usual pre-teen/teen problems as well, such as experiencing your first crush or wanting to use makeup. It’s something that made me sympathize with her.
The storyline itself is on one hand nothing new or special, but on the other hand the themes are certainly captivating. The writing is good but simple, making this a rather quick read, but I did enjoy the dark comedy and the almost casual, bored way this was worked into the narrative. As far as the mystery is concerned it follows a bit of a standard recipe in my opinion; it’s obvious that the supernatural element is of a more realistic origin and although there’s a twist I didn’t anticipate, I did make some correct guesses as to who the murderer was. The ending does come across as a little rushed, however it is somewhat unusual and I didn’t really except it to be solved this way. It’s open-ended in a way that feels like a sequel is planned, even though there’s probably not going to be one, so instead I wish it had been developed and elaborated on more.
Overall this was a wonderful little read. I admit I don’t think the plot is the most complicated or original one but the characters are interesting, especially the main characters. If you like unsettling child protagonists and morbid themes, or if you’re looking for a bit of a twisted summer read this year, then I recommend giving this a try!