Behaviours which are not considered normal for a balanced thirteen year old:
An imaginary friend who has a face on the back of his head and stares at you all night while you try and sleep.
Trying on other peoples makeup and crying really hard because you like the way the mascara runs all down your face.
Referring to your parents untimely death as 'The Smushing', even if it was by a boat propeller.
Squeezing starfish until you disable them.
Deciding your aunts dead cat is a touching birthday gift.
Your idea of a comforting bedtime read is 'The Handbook of Murderers A-Z'... illustrated.
You get the feeling from the get go that our young narrator is going to end up in some sort of trouble but it's hard to tell exactly what sort and how serious the fallout will be.
On one hand our thirteen year old is dealing with some serious adult themes, such as budding psychological issues, yet the setting is in complete opposition. Fowey is a sunny seaside town with quaint sweetshops, pastel bunting and matching yellow windowsills. However, the way in which our teenager approaches her parents death, her penchant for animal cruelty and the sinister hints at her uncles midnight visits to her room create a troubling, oozing centre for such a sugar coated setting and the effect is uneasy, in a 'Hotel California' sort of way.
Through the rosy sociopathic lens of our troubled teenager, Fennell conjures up some fantastically extreme characters and they're all packed into the tiny town like a box of kooky neon hares.
When the body of a young female is pulled from the ocean our teenage narrator is quickly engrossed with the investigation and for a moment you might be led to think this is an Enid Blyton-esque 'let the eager children solve the crime' sort of novel. Except our unnamed narrator is a child of the modern age and doesn't have an ounce of the 'Famous Five' in her.
Monsters begins as a witty, humorous account of a problem child sent to stay in a faded glory seaside town with the other harmless crazies. Until a walking matchstick comes along in the shape of a 14 year old boy... Miles and sets fire to her already fragile mind.
Based closely on Norman Bates, Miles is a catalyst for our narrators decline into full on homicidal tendencies and is one of the most sickly sweet characters I've come across in a long time. Miles is a complete parody of himself. He will steal cigarettes dressed in child-like cartoon train pyjamas, a real quirky little Jekyll and Hyde. You're kept guessing with Miles, what is the little monster up to now?
"He says that other peoples secrets are like shiny pound coins, and that we should always save them up for when we need them"
For all appearances this book seems to be aimed at the children's market but it is not children's reading material. The deep psychological theme and the underlying current of abuse is better suited for adults who can spot the signs of behavioural decline in our main characters as they innocently blunder their way through a world of murder and homicide. The questions is... what does the future hold for the naughty duo and how will this summer come to shape their already distorted minds?
Reviewed by Christine Cafun on behalf of Chapter One