Book Review: Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects.
Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.
Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you’ll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.
Let me jump right to this point: I really wish they had made Montgomery maybe 13 instead of 16 and turned this into a middle grade novel. Because her voice comes across as much younger than 16. I liked a lot of what was going on in this novel, but kept getting hung up on how young she felt and much better this would have worked for me if it wasn’t YA.
Montgomery really only likes her best friends Thomas and Naoki. Everyone else exasperates her. She’s surrounded by people who seem uninteresting and small-minded. She takes a lot of heat for having lesbian moms, just as Thomas puts up with a lot of taunting for being gay. She feels like an outsider all the time. The only thing she really likes it the mystery club she and her friends have. Investigating mysterious, paranormal things is intriguing to her, even if none of them seem to work out or be true. She aptly notes, “I’ve always been, like, this inexplicable thing, a mystery object that’s not like anyone else at this school. I guess it’s possible that that’s part of why I’m so obsessed with other inexplicable things.” Montgomery is so certain that no one really understands her, that everyone other than her best friends suck (and she even fights with them). She’s angry, sees things as black and white, and makes a lot of assumptions. As you might expect, the mystery she learns the most about in this story is herself.
Homophobia and religion play large parts in this story, especially once the “I’m going to save the American family” Reverend White shows up in town. Montgomery fills the reader in on the long history of those issues looming large in their own extended family, helping us understand why she reacts how she does (well—there’s no context needed for why she gets furious about all the homophobic comments, but the religion aspect makes a little more sense when you learn more about her family). I liked the fact that her moms show up a lot in the story and are so loving and supportive of Monty, even though she’s constantly pushing them away and covering up all the feelings and experiences she could be sharing with them.
There was a lot to like in this story, with really interesting characters, but the execution of it just fell flat for me. I’m good with stories having very little actual plot as long as the relationships between the characters and the dialogue can propel the story forward, but here I often found myself sort of bored by their repetitive conversations and Monty’s one-note behavior and feelings. Useful to put this one on the list of YA books that skew younger. The premise is interesting, but I just wanted more.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: 04/19/2016
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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