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BOOK REVIEW: Monster by C. J. Skuse

| 13 September 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Monster by C.J. Skuse

October 2015
Paperback, £7.99 GBP
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli




I had to see it more clearly. I had to know if it was there for sure, the thing I’d been seeing for weeks now, darting across fields, hiding around corners, vanishing behind trees. The killer of dozens of sheep and chickens. And possible humans.
But, in a second, it had gone, vanished into the hedge with barely the rustle of a leaf.

Monster had a lot going for it: a creepy legend, an old boarding school in a countryside setting, a group of girls that couldn’t be more different having to band together to survive. It had a lot playing in its favour, a lot that could’ve made this book great, but unfortunately just it wasn’t.

At sixteen, Nash’s biggest problem is battling for the title of Head Girl at Bathory’s, a girls-only boarding school that strives to give the country only the best of the best. But when her brother goes missing on his round-the-world trip, and Nash is stuck at the boarding school over the Christmas period, she realises that there are bigger things to worry about: for example, the Beast of Bathory, a legend that might not be so unbelievable.

The girls and their matron quickly become aware of the Beast and other things lurking in the woods. Tourists have been going missing for years, cattle has turned up dead and rumour has it that the Beast is hungrier than ever… and it’s hunting right on their doorstep. One night, when Matron goes missing, and the girls are left alone, they realise that, in order to survive, they have to be willing to do absolutely anything.

“Oh my God, Brody!” Regan cried.
I shone my torchlight onto the Newfie as he came to a stop in front of us.
“Brody! What’s happened? Where’s Matron, eh, boy?” cried Regan as she skittered over and crouched down beside him.
“Is he all right?” said Maggie, going over to inspect him too.
I shone my torch over the paw prints he’d left all along the path. They were red.

Monster could’ve been a great YA mystery showcasing strong female friendships. Unfortunately, it devolved in catty slut-shaming from the very first page, and the characters were more worried about boys and their lack of internet connection than anything serious. I was looking forward to reading about the Beast and solving the mystery alongside the characters, but by the halfway point, I realised it wasn’t going to happen. Nash’s obsession with Charlie, the boy who lives in the village, is cringe-worthy to the point of being weird and her subsequent obsession with Leon, an escaped convict, is even worse. Nash decides to stay behind and nurse Leon’s wounds more often than not, and the amount of times the reader is slapped in the face with “OMG ABS” is awful. One would think that a sensible character like Nash would stay far away from a guy (six years older than her) who has killed before.

Not only that, but one of the girls is known to have been sleeping with the twenty-two year old murderer. Whichever way I looked at it, it was bad. Bad, awful, bad.

I couldn’t get behind the constant bitchiness and the way Nash always spoke badly about Dianna, a girl who looked up to her, and who was also running for Head Girl. Competition is everything for a title like that, but it should never drop to cattiness and harsh bitching, especially when Dianna expressed her admiration for Nash on more than one occasion.

The romance between Nash and Charlie came out of nowhere, and was pretty embarrassing.

He grinned and his eyes twinkled in the café’s dim lighting. “I knew he wouldn’t let me take you out and I really wanted to see you.” Something broke in my chest.
“Aww. I wanted to see you too.”
“Don’t laugh but…” His head dipped and when I saw his eyes again they were sparkling. “I think we’re quite similar. I feel a connection with you, Nash. I’ve never felt it with anyone else.”

The writing was stilted and awkward, and it felt like Nash had to narrate every single thing she did at all times:

Charlie went in the phone shop to see about a new SIM card for his Samsung, and I helped him choose some Christmas presents for his mum and sister in a lovely high-end gift shop called Seymour’s, then we went to get something to eat. The line went silent. And then, the line went dead. And then, all the lights went out.

Although there were some twists, I found them predictable and silly. The ending left a lot to the imagination, which can be good on occasion, but in this book, I felt like a conclusive ending was needed. Even Nash’s priorities were all over the place and no matter how hard I tried to look at this another way, I found myself realising that there was so much they could have done to escape Bathory’s and get help, but they just didn’t. It read more Middle Grade than Young Adult and I believe that a younger audience would enjoy this a lot more than the higher end of YA.

Overall, great plot, but it could’ve been executed better.


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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