You may have noticed that I’ve not really been around lately. I had every intention to post on Monday and Wednesday last week but, when it came to it, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve been falling behind with my reading of late and was nowhere near finishing a book in time. So, instead of a review, I was planning on writing something about recommendations for Mental Health Awareness Week. I sat down to write and I just crumpled. All my energy was gone and I had no suggestions for the post. For my own mental health, I decided to take a bit of a break. When it came to my Sunday Rundown, I decided to not post either because I’d posted so little and barely having read anything. It wasn’t exactly going to be a very good rundown. I’m starting this week in more of a positive mindset. I’ve finished not one but 2 books over the weekend and have high hopes for my next one. It should be a quickish read all going well. So, I should be back in the swing of things in no time.
I recently watched and loved the film Promising Young Woman. It was such a surprisingly funny and dark film that dealt with an important issue. I knew that I had to read some of Emerald Fennell’s fiction so I picked this up. I didn’t really know what to expect. It sounded a bit like Broadchurch meets Wes Anderson. Something that I wasn’t complaining about. However, just as Promising Young Woman was sold as one thing before turning out to be something else, Monsters isn’t as simple as it seems at first glance. I admit, aspects of the story were easy to figure out but it doesn’t end in the way that I expected when I bought it.
We are taken to Fowley, a Cornish tourist town, with the unnamed narrator. Her parents died when she was very young so she spends most of her time living with her grandmother. Although, through the Summer holidays she heads to Fowley to stay at her Aunt and Uncle’s hotel. The 12-year-old girl isn’t like most kids. She’s a bit of a loner and is fascinated by murder. So, when the body of a young woman washes up on the beach, she is thrilled. She decides to start investigating the crime so she can work out which of the town’s residents is a killer. Luckily, one of the hotel’s guests is a 13-year-old boy called Miles. Miles is also a bit of an odd-ball and happily joins the girl on her quest to uncover the truth. As more bodies begin to surface, the pair soon find themselves getting closer and closer to violence. But where does mere childhood curiosity become something more sinister?
I love a good murder mystery but I tend to find a lot of them uninspiring. Emerald Fennell manages to bring something fun and original to her story. It’s not your classic whodunnit and it’s a really fun read. One of the best things about Monsters is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is plenty of darkness here but it’s always presented with a sense of fun. Fennell definitely knows how to bring comedy into uncomfortable situations. Though her narrator isn’t really aiming to be funny, she is the biggest source of the laughs in this book. This is a 12-year-old girl who has been exposed to the grisly reality of death since she was a little girl. Her parents died when they fell off a boat and she has spent many years contemplating the reality of this. She is a loner and doesn’t really care for other people. Her best friend at school is the teacher who makes her a Vlad the Impaler t-shirt. Just listening to her is a lot of fun.
Although, she is also a troubled young girl and has clearly experienced a great deal of loss in her life. She is also suffering from emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her relatives. Every year, her grandmother goes away without her so she is forced to stay with her Aunt. It’s just a massive shame that Aunt Jean is married to a bully who abuses both his wife and her niece. The story raises a lot of delicate and important issues but none of them is used for mere entertainment purposes. Nothing is ever made very explicit but you can see how years of neglect and abuse have taken their toll on the girl. The novel is very detached and makes no judgements on her thoughts or behaviour. It just relays them in a very matter of fact way. Something that I think gives the reader more opportunity to analyse them.
Of course, the novel doesn’t really get going until our narrator finds out about the body on the beach. She is fascinated by killers and reads about serial killers for fun. She instantly wants to know more and decides she is the best one to investigate. That is what allows her to cross paths with Miles. At first, Miles seems to be another lonely kid with a weird outlook on life. As time goes on, it becomes clear that there is more to Miles than meets the eye. It could be argued that our narrator has sociopathic tendencies but Miles is much higher up the spectrum. We see him manipulate everyone in his life. Does it stem from his creepy relationship with his mother? Who knows but Miles definitely has quite a bit in common with Norman Bates. It’s really fun watching the two get to know each other and freak out the rest of the town with their murder games. The pair are so well-written and feel fully developed.
In fact, the whole book is well-written and fully developed. It’s got a little bit of everything and is a really easy story to read. The chapters are pretty short and keep you invested in the story. The mystery develops naturally and doesn’t rely on constant cliffhangers to create tension. Instead, Fennell develops the story slowly and adds subplots to distract from the main story. It’s all very well done and would suit a young adult audience wonderfully. It’s possibly not meaty enough for a real adult thriller fan but it’s still a great book for older readers. My only real gripe is how quickly the book wraps itself up. It just kind of barrels along to the finale and doesn’t give you much time to breathe. I’m not saying it needed to give us any more information but maybe just a second to digest it all. Still, this was definitely as good as I hoped it would be and you can see how Fennell went on to write the screenplay to Promising Young Woman.