Book Review: Let the Monster Out by Chad Lucas
An equal parts heart-pounding and heartfelt middle-grade mystery about facing––and accepting––your fears, perfect for fans of Stranger Things and The Parker Inheritance
Bones Malone feels like he can’t do anything right in his new small town: He almost punched the son of the woman who babysits him and his brothers, he’s one of the only Black kids in Langille, and now his baseball team (the one place where he really feels like he shines) just lost their first game. To make matters worse, things in town are getting weird. His mom isn’t acting like herself at all—she’s totally spaced out, almost like a zombie. And then he and his brothers have the same dream—one where they’re running from some of their deepest fears, like a bear and an eerie cracked mirror that Bones would rather soon forget.
Kyle Specks feels like he can never say the right thing at the right time. He thinks he might be neurodivergent, but he hasn’t gotten an official diagnosis yet. His parents worry that the world might be too hard for him and try to protect him, but Kyle knows they can’t do that forever. Even though he’s scared, he can’t just stand by and do nothing while things in this town get stranger and stranger, especially not after he and Bones find a mysterious scientist’s journal that might hold answers about what’s going on.
But when faced with seemingly impossible situations, a shady corporation, and their own worst nightmares, will Kyle and Bones be brave enough to admit they’re scared? Or will the fear totally consume and control them?
I work in an elementary school library and am frequently asked for books that are scary, creepy, or horror. This book falls firmly into the creepy category. And while it may only really have “set in a town where kids are trying to figure out why people are acting weird and what sinister and creepy thing is behind it” in common with Stranger Things, it’s a good book to hand to readers who are into that show. My favorite thing about this book is that while it’s a mystery about trying to discover why all of the adults are suddenly zoned out automatons, it’s about SO much more—like friendship, and fears, and strengths, and how our brains work. It’s about being one of the only Black kids in town, about protecting your family while being terrified about turning out like someone in your family, about unlikely friendships and unlikely heroes. They are kids who are trying to solve a mystery, which was engaging, but they’re also kids trying to figure out how to make friends, how to step outside of your comfort zone, and how to trust others and how to trust yourself. It might be the “creepy” factor that will interest kids in picking up this book, but it’s the layers to the story and the complicated, authentic characters that will keep kids reading. A solid, surprisingly tender read.
Review copy (finished) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: 05/17/2022
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years
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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