I haven’t been as drawn to the YA genre as of late, but picked up this audiobook on a whim regardless. And as it turns out, it was one of the more compelling listens throughout than a lot of what I’ve been getting into these past few months. That is, until the ending: try as it might to have a big, surprising and meaningful drop, it just didn’t have the impact compared to the rest of the twists, turns, and theorizing within the novel. And I can’t help but notice a lot of YA novels where the cover features faces that are scratched out, purposefully covered up, or otherwise blurred of identity and feature some kind of mystery (and often death) end up leaving me feeling underwhelmed when the resolution hits. Hmmmmm…. Strange coincidence, or maybe this kind of mystery story isn’t for me?
Little Monsters focuses on Casey, a new girl who moves to a small town to live with her father and step-family. Although she initially feels like an outsider, she is quickly taken in by an inseparable duo of friends, Bailey and Jade. They do everything together and become quick friends, yet Casey can’t help but notice a feeling of powerlessness to her often bossy new pals. And when they start to pull away from her and seemingly purposefully forget to pick her up for the biggest party of the year, Casey starts to get a little nervous about her place in the group. That is, until Bailey never comes home after the party, and the idyllic small town is turned into a rumor mill that can’t help but point fingers at Casey, who desperately just wants to figure out what happened to her friend.
Something that this novel does portray well, however, is the ways in which people will interpret the behaviors of others to suit their own narratives, biases, or ideas. We never see the full story behind people and yet assume we know what their actions mean completely and how they are feeling about us and what their motives are, and sure sometimes these things can be perceived to a point, but nothing exists in a vacuum. It acts as a great reminder that sometimes, you just have to have a conversation with a person. Stop making ultimatums and little tests for people without communicating what these things are. I was begging through my headphones for these girls to just talk to one another! Ah!
But again, this can be such a thing for not just young people with heightened emotions and fears about their relationships, but anyone, pheeeeeeew boy. Drama makes for a compelling read/listen, after all! And it was certainly an interesting read to visit such issues which feel so far away from me in terms of age and stage of life at this point, yet the emotions are still so real and familiar.
As I said earlier, however, something about how this all came together in the end didn’t work for me. There was a particular outcome being suggested that I didn’t really like, but it honestly could have made a lot of sense and been interesting if enough work and characterizing had been done. But in the end, the plot progression I expected didn’t happen; instead, a different ending resulted that I liked even less. It didn’t feel real or earned in a way, after all the theorizing and relationships and issues that had been presented earlier. I even got the slightest little whiff that the author wanted to utilize some of the ideas behind a myth like slenderman and how impressionable young people can be regarding those kinds of things, just without actually delving into the psychology and pain behind that. The conclusion felt a little tacked on to me and distracting from some of the deeper, juicer stuff going on. Was this just for the shock and surprise of it? And now that I think about it, do I say that too often: that plot twists feel like they are just there for the sake of a twist and little more? Maybe I do, and again maybe this kind of mystery story just isn’t for me at the end of the day.
So ultimately, Little Monsters was a pretty good book to listen to, and certainly has some intrigue along the way. It just didn’t manage to stick the landing for me.