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Delicate Monsters: A Novel Hardcover – June 9, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—This novel centers on the convergence of the lives of Sadie, a damaged girl who enjoys causing others pain, and Emerson, a boy who's trying desperately to hide the dysfunction inside his family and himself. The novel follows Sadie as she arrives back in California wine country after being expelled from a series of far-flung and expensive boarding schools. Emerson is stunned by her reappearance and unprepared to face the past they shared, which only makes Sadie more interested in pursuing and taunting him. When a life-or-death crisis occurs, both of them must finally face reality, along with their demons. The emotional baggage of the main characters is never fully explained or resolved, but this will not bother teens who enjoy a briskly paced, high-adrenaline narrative full of parties, sex, and fast cars. Overall, Delicate Monsters is an enjoyable read but has no gripping moments or stunning surprises to make it stand up against more compelling novels, such as The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2014) or It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (Miramax, 2006). VERDICT For avid fans of the author and teens who enjoy honest and often dark tales.—Tara Hixon, Piedmont High School, OK
“Kuehn (Complicit) once again proves herself a talented writer in a tough, punishing novel about the damages we inflict on others and the shaky defenses we build to mask trauma and guilt.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Kuehn effortlessly switches between Sadie, Emerson, and Miles, unspooling an intriguing entwined story that dips backward and forward, rife with teasing questions that gradually lay bare troubling secrets. Like her previous YA novels, Kuehn's latest benefits from tight construction, expert pacing, and voices that ring especially true for contemporary teenagers, particularly Sadie's entrancing, gleefully acerbic tone. Intelligent, compulsively readable literary fiction with a dark twist.” ―Booklist (Starred Review)
“A briskly paced, high-adrenaline narrative full of parties, sex, and fast cars...[for] teens who enjoy honest and often dark tales.” ―School Library Journal
“Kuehn's prose intensifies in feeling with each page. Her characters' mental anguish and vulnerability take center stage, no excuses allowed, pain and rawness totally exposed. Sexual language and activity reveal the highs and lows of these teens on the edge of despair. A chilling look into heartache and reckless redemption-not for the faint of heart.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Kuehn writes with the fleetness of a trained thriller author...Explosive.” ―Booklist (starred review) on Complicit
“Kuehn's second novel, after her Morris Award-winning Charm & Strange, powerfully examines how mental illness can turn into family tragedy that ripples far and wide beyond a single event. The prose is as hallucinatory as the madness Jamie seeks to uncover in a novel that's tense and ambiguous from start to finish.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Complicit
“A high-powered voice rich in charismatic style and emotional intensity illuminates this ambitious debut.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Charm & Strange
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Top Customer Reviews
The first and most clear-cut monster is Sadie Su. I’ll go ahead and diagnose Sadie as a sociopath. She’s cruel for no other reason than that she can be, she throws rocks at cars for fun, and she’s just generally scary. One little scene that highlighted Sadie’s mental illness more clearly than even some of the more outwardly cruel behavior she exhibits is when urinates on herself while walking in her house in her nightgown. Why? Because she likes the feel of the warmth on her legs. This freaked me out for a couple of reasons. One, because it demonstrates how disconnected she is from “normal” human behavior, and two, because it reminded me of a certain scene from The Exorcist.
Emerson is our next monster. He’s Sadie’s former childhood friend and current classmate. Initially, he seems OK. But then he commits a sick act which would be bad enough on its own, but is made worse because of the way he is unable to understand the wrongness of his actions. We also learn, through Sadie, about his sadistic acts as a child, and by that point, I began to view Emerson as even scarier than Sadie.
Miles is Emerson’s younger brother. He might not be a monster, unless you consider his possible ability to predict impending, horrible violence as monstrous. He’s odd and awkward and, not surprisingly, he’s tormented and bullied at school. He’s tortured by the visions in his head and unfortunately, his brother is too self-absorbed to care.
Sadie connects with these two brothers in very different ways. She decides to have her unique brand of “fun” with Emerson, and I can’t say that I minded. He deserved to be on the receiving end of Sadie’s torturing. But Miles has a very different effect on Sadie. Something about his strangeness helped to level off her sociopathic tendencies, if only in her interactions with Miles.
I had certain expectations going into this book, based on Kuehn’s previous two novels, Charm and Strange and Complicit, both of which were very, very good. They both dealt with mental illness and had unreliable narrators and knock-your-socks-off endings. Delicate Monsters differs primarily in its lack of an unreliable narrator, and I kept waiting for someone to get exposed. But I like how Kuehn took a different and unexpected path here. There IS a shocking ending, and it’s one that at the beginning of the book would have seemed unbelievable, but with Kuehn’s careful development of her characters throughout the story, it works, and it’s very powerful.
One of my favorite things about all of Kuehn’s books is how she is completely unafraid to show the ugliness of her characters. As a reader, this can be a brutal experience, but it’s real, and it’s honest, and it’s true to life.
Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher.
In tradition of Courtney Summers thrillers where the characters are more twisted and that ending was more open than leaving the reader speechless and wanting more. Kuehn explores how deep a teenagers mind can be destructive and addictive. The novel has sex, abuse, craziness, and mental illness that can be deeply described.
The story is told from 3 perspectives: Sadie, Miles and Emerson. I thought each of their voices could not confuse you when you are reading. Immediately meeting Sadie, we know she is trouble, and is very angry with her life. She is rude and can corrupt. Definitely a character I found interesting as the story develops. Emerson starts out like a normal guy until his darker side comes out. Lastly, Miles is different than the others from the start. He is sick and mentally unstable when he talks about random stuff (like the future). This book is out of the box and most times in a creepy way. But the ending was unexpected.
Overall, this is one crazy brilliant read that will make you think. Kuehn is not afraid to let readers go through this story to see how mental illness needs to be looked at. I will be definitely looking into more of her books because I'm intrigued by her characters and crazy plots! Get this crazy psychology thriller!
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