Sunday, April 28, 2019

REVIEW: Monster (book) by Christopher Pike

Monster is YA horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Angela is a relative newcomer to the small town of Point. She moved in with her grandfather after her parents went through an ugly divorce. She figures that Point will be quiet and peaceful, but she's wrong. Angela is at a party when Mary, her best friend, bursts in and starts shooting people with a shotgun. It's horrific, but Mary doesn't seem out of control - she seems to have some kind of goal. She tries to make Jim, her own boyfriend, her final victim, but Angela and a police officer manage to stop her.

After the shooting (which is pretty graphic - be aware of this if school shootings and similar situations are an issue for you), Angela tries to find out why Mary did it. All Mary will tell her is that the people she shot were monsters. She warns Angela to stay away from Jim, but Angela feels herself drawn to him. She has secretly been nursing a crush on him, holding back only because he was dating her best friend. But now that Mary is a killer, Jim is fair game, right? Except what if Mary is right? What if Jim really is a monster?

I knew going in that I had probably read this before, just because of how familiar the cover looked, but I couldn't remember anything about it. Or at least I thought I couldn't. Early on, I pulled a wild guess as to what was going on with Jim out of thin air. I was right, so maybe I retained more of this book than I realized. And I definitely remembered reading the last few pages before.

I disliked Angela. Some of what she thought and did could have been blamed on Jim's affect on her, but not all of it. Angela's taste in guys was abysmal. Jim was the kind of guy who only cared about himself. At one point, his and Angela's conversations touched on the environment, and Jim made it clear that the world only exists for the pleasure of the current generation. Who cares about future generations and what they'll have to live with? He also dipped into potential rapist territory, as he tried to push Angela into sexual behavior she wasn't 100% comfortable with. When he literally bled all over her during a make-out session, I wanted to shake her in frustration. Even Angela knew, on some level, that was he was doing was worrisome, but she waited far too long before looking into what might be going on and trying to fight it.

There was another character, Kevin, who I suspect readers were supposed to interpret as the "nice guy" right under Angela's nose, who she'd have been better off choosing. Unfortunately, I didn't think Kevin was much better. When readers first met him, he and Angela did some kind of roleplaying inside joke where she pretended he was the "other man" sneaking into her and her husband's house for a quickie. WTF? They were teens. They weren't in a relationship - Kevin was interested, and Angela wasn't. And yet she still did this weird adultery roleplay with him? Who does that?

If you like weird Christopher Pike books, this definitely has weirdness. There are dreams of an alien world, one where blood rains from the sky. There's a so-brief-you-might-miss-it mention of a technologically advanced ancient civilization (humans!), with space travel and ray guns. And bat-like things.

Pike included something I don't see much in current YA: an adult POV character. Nguyen was a local cop and Vietnam War vet. I appreciated that he wasn't an idiot and knew enough to keep an eye on Angela - this was not one of those books where teens repeatedly outsmart supposedly experienced cops (genuine monsters were another issue entirely). I think Nguyen was the only on-page adult in the entire book, however. I still think it's odd that Angela's grandfather never had an on-page moment, not even right after the shooting. Even though he didn't seem to be very much into parenting, you'd think he'd still have been at least the tiniest bit worried about his granddaughter.

I can't say that I liked this, but I didn't dislike it either. Angela was frustrating, and I really could have done without the book's sexual aspects (Angela literally got turned on by oil wells, OMG), but I enjoyed the weirdness and wanted to see how everything was going to turn out. And hey, there's a standoffish collie named Plastic! Who survives, in case I have now worried you.

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