“But that’s the problem with letting someone slowly chip away at your walls—when you let too much of yourself out, there’s no way to get it back.”
I tend to have very emotional reactions to books—I like to think of it as I either loved or hated it, and more times than not, most books I read fall somewhere in between those extremes. That is also to say that sometimes, even if I don’t find myself wholeheartedly enjoying a book, if it’s good enough for me to at least read the entire thing without wanting to abandon it after 50 pages, I feel the need to give it a minimum of 3 stars out of 5. I feel like 1 and 2-star ratings are reserved for books that I felt were especially bad, or I really disliked and/or hated them for specific reasons. So even if I think a book is weak/bad/stupid as I’m reading it, if it’s at least good enough for me to get through the whole thing, it’s most probably going to get a minimum of 3 stars from me. Little Monsters fits this rule of mine perfectly.
Little Monsters is a YA thriller that follows three teenage girls and what turns out to be an incredibly twisted and dangerous friendship. Our narrator, Kacey, enters the secluded town of Broken Falls, Wisconsin as the lonely, mysterious new girl. She had grown up with her unstable mother and as the result of an increasingly toxic environment, Kacey moves in with her father whom she had never met, his wife Ashley, her son Andrew, and Kacey’s half-sister Lauren. She befriends Jade and Bailey, two tight buddies who let Kacey into their circle and invite her to everything. However, one night, Bailey goes missing after a party, and Kacey finds herself stuck in a web of lies, drama, and scandal surrounding Bailey’s disappearance. Soon, Kacey learns her mistake in trusting the people around her, including the people she had called her closest supporters.
While the author does a good job at painting an intimate portrait of a small town with a vast cast of characters, the characters and plot themselves have very little depth. The entire story reminded me of a twisted soap opera plot, honestly: super twisty and entertaining at times, but overall, rather outlandish, forced, and shallow. There weren’t any evil twins or major reconstructive surgeries to look like someone else in Little Monsters, but it pretty much felt like the YA thriller novel equivalent of that. The entire climax of the story felt like it was just to reinforce the idea that teenage girls take out their deep-rooted anxieties about their world on themselves and their friends, but offers nothing to destigmatize such discussions. The resolution to the mystery also revolves around the stereotype of every teenage girl being boy-obsessed and being practically willing to kill each other over it, which was pretty eye-roll worthy. Honestly, I read a 1-star of review of Little Monsters by one of my Goodreads friends and pretty much agreed with everything they wrote—but like I said, I did find myself enjoying reading the book and I was able to actually finish it, so I couldn’t bring myself to give it 1 or 2 stars. I didn’t hate it THAT much. You can tell the author put time into the plot and making sure it made at least some sense, but at the same time, it felt like she just got lazy by the end and started explaining too much about the resolution of the story to the reader (show don’t tell).
But the weakest point of Little Monsters is the characters: their actions make virtually no sense. For example, Kacey thinks she has anger issues hidden inside herself because she grew up with an unstable mother but all she does is get a little justifiably angry a few times, so that felt forced. Not to mention Kacey’s entire backstory was just an afterthought: she moved to a new town with a new family with the father she had never met, and I think Kacey and her dad have a total of maybe three interactions throughout the entire book. Most of Kacey’s parental interactions are with her stepmother Ashley, which felt like a strange creative decision. Not to mention pretty much all of the characters then come across as unlikeable because the motives for their actions seem shallow, forced, or not entirely explained. Overall, Little Monsters was pretty easy to read and fairly entertaining given that it’s a thriller/mystery, but there are so many blaring problems with the plot and characters that are kind of hard to overlook. But I did enjoy reading it. I would recommend to anyone who likes simple YA books with a bit of mystery and twists thrown in. 3/5 stars.