Here there are Monsters is a skin-prickling horror (though, in my opinion, not an overly scary one) that has your mind jumping from one theory to another as you unravel Skye’s journey to find her missing sister, Deirdre.
The story jumps between the past and present, crafting a complex, hyper-realistic sisterly relationship almost right out of my own childhood. Odd-ball Deirdre doesn’t fit into the real world, she’s far more interested in fantasy, mystery and magic, but that’s left Skye in the role of Queen of Swords – her sister’s knight in shining armor, fending off bullies, at the expense of her own social life. A new start in a new town sends the sisters down different paths, with tensions rising within the family. Berube spends a long time dancing on the edge of fantasy, making you wonder what’s coming as our teenaged protagonist returns to the make-believe rules of fantasy worlds crafted by Deirdre throughout their childhood. It was a little slow-burn to start, but the pay off is well worth it.
Deirdre’s disappearance makes for a great setting for Berube to explore the nature of guilt and grief, showing how the family becomes unravelled trying to deal with the torturous emotions. This story explores the darker sides of humanity, highlighting survival instincts and loyalty as the characters are forced into one impossible decision after another. Towards the end of the book, Berube tackles some heavy philosophical questions, examining human nature and identity. These themes have stuck with me, even days after finishing the story – a sign of a truly good book, in my opinion. As a psychology student, I found these psychological themes not only interesting, but realistic and engaging.
I was very impressed with the ending. We get just enough hints throughout to string us along in the right direction, but the conclusion of events stunned me. Berube avoided the expected cliches and achieved an ending that was both satisfying and original.
My only complaint, I think, is that I wanted to know more about Deirdre. This is Skye’s story, of course, but personally I related a little more to the odd-ball misfit obsessed with escapism. I wanted to better understand what she was doing, what she was going through, and the path it lead her down. I still had some left-field questions unanswered after turning the last page, but I think perhaps that was Berube’s intention, keeping her secrets and leaving us to wonder.
Upon first opening the book, I admit I was hesitant. Oh no, I thought, It’s written in present tense. I’m not much of a fan of present tense.
By page two I was in awe of Berube’s writing style. I had to put the book down a moment to ruminate over the choice of words, the descriptions and metaphors that paint everything in my mind right down to the atmosphere.
The lack of 5 stars is simply down to the fact this was not a total page-turner. I didn’t fall in love with Skye, I didn’t immediately want to buy the book for my own shelves. It was still a fantastic story, beautifully written.
I would recommend this to readers aged 13+ I think. There are some dark points in the story, so maybe not for the young-minded, but still appropriate for younger teens. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and excited to see what else Amelinda Berube has for us.