Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Rated T terror with a traumatic aftertaste.
“I didn’t scream.”
Virgil Knox was attacked by a monster.
With his parents newly divorced, Virgil was forced to move with his dad to Merritt. Of course, nobody in the one-horse town believes him when he tells them he was attacked out in the sprawl. To them, he’d been drinking and it was a wild animal or something. But, not a monster.
Virgil knows it was a monster. He wasn’t bruised, clawed, or bitten by some wild animal. Unfortunately, being the new kid in town doesn’t give him any leeway, so he’s forced to keep a low profile. He’s forced to keep it to himself. His wounds aren’t going away, but getting worse. As time goes on, he can’t help but wonder if the monster will find a way to come back and finish him off, or if he’ll become a monster himself.
I had no idea SDH released this newbie until I happened across it at Barnes & Noble. The warning at the start of this book was so appreciated. SDH doesn’t just delve into the grittiness of the supernatural and add drops of humor across it. He blends it with real-life traumas and tribulations, offering the reader a chance to relate and an opportunity for understanding. There was no shortage of that with this book. A message I often remind myself of is that while not all monsters are monsters, some monsters really are monsters. Some appear normal and are monstrous. Hell, some people are turned into monsters. It’s a little complex, but SDH approached this area with the same style and grandeur he’s kept in all of his books and has kept me coming back for more.
I’m a lover of werewolves, so this took me by surprise. You don’t really discover what the monster is species-wise and that’s a major point of the “monster” of this book. A werewolf was just the closest one I could visualize from the imagery. SDH took on the traumatic event of being drugged, sexually assaulted, and unable to identify the attacker and the trauma that follows. It’s unbelievably scary and more times than not, it’s handled much like it was for Virgil in this book. People don’t believe you, they chastise you, and they ostracize you. SDH’s story was masterfully told and written about such a stomach-twisting subject. Once again, I was captivated by another of his double-edged knife of a book.
Virgil is the new kid. All eyes are on him and what he’ll do. Off to a rocky start after the attack, Virgil did manage to find his tribe. His cousin, Astrid, and an unexpected friend in outgoing and down-to-earth Tripp were characters after my own heart. While Astrid was upfront and blunt, she cared about Virgil and could relate a little to what he was going through. Tripp was such an open book and was the kind of person you want in your circle. He never doubted Virgil and offered to help find the monster with Virgil. Though it was only two people, these two people had Virgil’s back and it was enough to make waves and even help Virgil adjust to his new life and to heal from his attack.
Over everything, I was so proud that Virgil spoke out and was determined to find this monster. Some people are too terrified to do so. This spoke out to me like an encouragement. As Virgil continued to try to sort out who he was and who he’d become and who the monster was, so much more was revealed. Like a veil lifted. He was realizing that he wasn’t alone and that the world could be a deadly place. But, he also discovered people like Reba, a fellow classmate, and Duran, a police officer, were looking out for people that were at risk like he was.
Trauma transforms. It leaves a mark and the mark scars. It’s heartbreaking but true. It’s how you handle it and heal from it that matters. Going through that struggle and wondering how Virgil would transform was nail-biting. This attack wasn’t just physical. It touched on every part of him, even his sexuality and relationships with his relatives. I teared up a couple times. It was unfair that his own grandparents wouldn’t listen let alone his own parents. His own parents could barely recognize him as a human being. The neglect was hard to wrangle with.
Monsters aren’t always monsters, but sometimes, like in this book, they are. Such a magnificent book. Raw, engaging, and relatable. This reaches out to an age group that can be difficult but provides compelling storytelling. Being a teenager can be great, but it can also be scary and hard. It’s a peak in life where you are deciding who you want to be, where you want to go, and what you’ll do with it all.
There was a real monster in this book, whether it was supernatural is up to the reader. The friendship and healing that came out of this were empowering. I was at such a loss for words. Much like the other SDH books I’ve read, I highly recommend this one.
“I was attacked by a monster.” (Virgil, p. 8)
“Sometimes to get things we want, we’ve got to endure things we don’t.” (p. 89)
“Memories fuel the engine of our souls.” (Mr. Hilliker, p. 101)
“You’re a monster, baby. Be a monster.” (p. 318)
“There are a lot of different ways to scream, Virgil.” (Astrid to Virgil, p. 332)
“No one should have to face their monsters alone, Virgil.” (Astrid to Virgil, p. 388)
More to come soon…
Song Today? Li’l Red Riding Hood by Bowling for Soup
Thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments below!
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