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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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Sadie Su is a cruel seventeen year old who doesn’t seem to care about anyone nor have appropriate feelings for things in general. She’s just moved back to the California wine country where she grew up after being expelled from numerous boarding schools. She’s definitely one of the oddest characters I’ve ever read about and even though she’s mean and cruel, I kinda liked her and enjoyed reading the chapters from her POV. Emerson is an eighteen year old boy who comes from a very poor family yet they live in a very rich town. His goals in life seem simple; hang with his friends, get the girl he likes to be his girlfriend, and continue playing basketball. When he discovers that Sadie has moved back to town after all these years he realizes he now has a new life goal, avoid Sadie Su at all costs. You see, Emerson and Sadie used to hang out at her families vineyard when they were younger and Sadie knows all of Emerson’s secrets, secrets he’d never want getting out. I really liked Emerson at first and found it really interesting that he was able to integrate himself with all of these rich kids without hiding who he was or where he came from. Then there’s Miles, Emerson’s fifteen year old brother who seems to get sick all of the time yet nobody can explain why. Miles also believes he can see the future but his visions only show him impending doom and he’s stuck trying to figure out what it means and how to stop it. He’s relentlessly bullied and tormented at school, a constant loner. Miles was a bit of an enigma for me, I wasn’t sure if I truly “liked” him as a character but found his “visions” really fascinating and I loved trying to figure out if they were real or all in his head.
There’s really no way to describe the plot of Delicate Monsters because to do so would involve spoilers and there’s no fun it that! What I can say is that this is a story about secrets, dark and dirty secrets that some of our characters don’t want anyone finding out, ever. I loved the amount of mysteries that were woven within this story, there were so many secrets to try and figure out and uncover and it really kept me turning the pages. What did Sadie do to get herself expelled from so many boarding schools? Why exactly is Emerson so hell bent on avoiding Sadie? What did he do when they were younger that was so bad he doesn’t want anyone finding out? And why has Sadie kept this secret to herself all these years? Why does Miles get so sick when no doctor can find anything wrong with him? Can he really see the future or is he actually mentally unstable? If his vision of an imminent tragic event is true, can he stop it from happening? This book will have your head spinning trying to figure it all out!
If you know anything about Stephanie Kuehn’s novels then you know you’re in for a total mindf*** when you read them. In my opinion she’s the best, like seriously, she’s the queen of mindf***ing your brain. I knew this going in. I’ve read her other books and was totally prepared. I thought to myself, this time I will see it coming. I’ll read between the lines & figure out the secrets of this novel before Kuehn wants me to. Ummm ya, so that’s not how it went at all! I really thought I was figuring it out too, I started seeing how all the pieces could come together to reveal this grand design and I thought “oooh this is gonna be good”. But what do I know? Clearly nothing because while I was busy “figuring out” what I thought was going on Kuehn was busy laying out her perfect web to trap me. When I finally realized what was going on my brain was like “what just happened?? no seriously…….. what the f*** just happened?!?!?!” I have no clue how she does it, NO FREAKIN CLUE PEOPLE! But she does it, every single time and that’s why she’s the queen :)
I highly recommend Delicate Monsters (or any of Kuehn’s three books) for readers who love to get swept away into the darker side of human nature. If you fancy stories that are extremely dark and disturbing yet pull you in and fascinate you at the same time, then this is the book for you. If you love writing that mesmerizes and captivates you while also making you feel somewhat uncomfortable, then this is the book for you. If you enjoy deep, twisted character studies and endings that are left slightly open, then this is definitely the book for you. If you don’t love, like or even enjoy most of the things I’ve just mentioned then run, don’t walk, cause this isn’t the book for you 😉
A huge thank you to the publishers, St. Martin’s Griffin and to NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary, advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!
Sadie Su, Emerson Tate and Miles Tate aren’t likable, easy to connect with or easy to understand. And they’re not meant to be. Their motives, personalities, decisions aren’t those that are relatable. Their behaviors are atypical, harsh, extreme, troubling, upsetting. And the reasons for their actions aren’t readily attributable or justifiable.
This is not a story that will leave readers with the warm and fuzzies. There is no love story. There is no promise of a happily ever after. There is no guarantee of redemption for the characters.
This is a story that is aptly titled. These characters are monsters with pretty faces. They are amoral. They have no empathy. Their pasts, their presents, their actions are dark, sinister, perturbing. Readers are made to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. They aren’t shielded from the story’s harsh realities.
Author Stephanie Kuehn does an incredible job of bringing her characters and story to life in the most startling and unpredictable of ways. She takes three very different approaches to how she introduces her characters, how she reveals their pasts, who they were, who they are, what they’ve done and what they plan to do. And she ensures that each one of them is more than a little bit frightening, a tiny bit sympathetic, some level of awful, and yet disturbingly appealing.
DELICATE MONSTERS is not a quick and easy read. While not a long story, it packs a punch or three. It makes an impact. It is chilling. It is shocking. It’s darkly alluring. It’s a story that won’t easily be forgotten, even if, in the dead of night, you might hope to.
I don't like any of them enough to remember their names.
-One psychopath (a girl, tho they are usually men in literature),
-one possible psychopath (he only used to be evil, now he's maybe reformed) and
-one alleged psychic who makes himself sick on purpose (it's not hard, he's allergic to everything).
The last two are brothers. They are both liars, tho they might be lying to themselves more than the reader. The older used to beat up on the younger quite a lot, or find less bruising methods of torture. The younger hurts himself, now, is he used to it? (that gets answered in the story.) Are his visions real, or based on horrible memories? (not answered).
The girl nearly killed a guy at her last school, now she's attending the local public school. She remembers the older brother from the good old sadistic days, but somehow not the younger one. She quite likes the younger one, because he doesn't bother lying to her.
These are teenagers. Sex happens. For her, it's something she can take care of better on her own, but she's willing to rub up with a guy if it will get her what she wants. For the older brother, it's embarrassing - he has a Sleeping Beauty fetish. For the younger one, it seems to consist of slurs and threats of beatings by bigger guys, ie nearly everyone.
The guy she nearly killed texts her about it. Weird.
The closing scenes of the book are very tense, and believable in context of the story.
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