Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There are well executed and poorly under taken concepts in Here There Are Monsters. Overall it was a let down for me (and many others if you peruse the other reviews). While the plot is okay and the thoughts of our lead gal are very genuine; all along there is something missing. It's lacking that spark or attraction that makes a book great (or even just 4-star good).
The best part of Amelinda Berube's novel is the first person writing of her lead character. As the oldest of three kids, and 4 years separately me and my next sibling in age, I really connected with what our lead teen felt and expressed inside her head. From comments about how annoying her siblings are to how she is tired of feeling responsible for them given she's not the parent. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Berube is the oldest child in her family with a gap between siblings as all the thoughts our lead gal thinks are also ones I've thought over the years.
The actual plot itself is very interesting. A sister that is missing, weird happenings in the forest, and odd sculptures showing up all contribute to an overall creepy ambience in Here There Are Monsters. However the entire time the story is missing that something. I never really felt fear for our lead or her missing sister. I also never really felt like the strings of the story were linked together. It was as though one thing happened, and then another; but actually feeling like they were related and building towards something was missing. It's too bad because there is a great story to be told here if only I felt more invested. The ending is the bad icing on a crumbling cupcake as it falls apart very quickly and feels like it was written in about ten minutes on a bus just to get it done. It's unfortunate as a good ending, in some ways, might have saved this novel from it's mediocre status.
The Missing Sister
Take note newer writers, if you want your reader to feel something for a character they barely meet in the present day narrative then you MUST make them relatable and create an environment where the reader can have sympathy for them. We read flashbacks of the missing sister throughout the current day story and yet I still felt like I never knew her, and never cared. Now this may be because the story is told from the point of view of the older sister? Our lead gal has become a bit ambivalent towards her sister and her odd behaviour. I wonder if the flashbacks had been from the missing younger sisters perspective would that have created the bond needed for me to care?
There's opportunity here unfortunately Berube doesn't quite create a polished book that stands out. Here There Are Monsters feels like it should be better than it ultimately is. That's not to say it's a bad read. It's fine. Maybe a half step above your average free book. But it's certainly not going to stand out amoungst all the YA books of today; and doesn't live up to it's hyped pre-release. All-in-all you won't be missing much if you pass on it.
That said it is a stand-alone which is attractive to many. Although I can't help but feel thankful that it's one and done; and this world won't be revisited because there is barely enough to care about in this one book; let along if another was to be written in to make a series.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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