Monstrous is a dark, YA Fantasy story from Jessica Lewis.
I’ve heard incredible things about this author’s first novel, Bad Witch Burning, but haven’t gotten to it yet. After reading this, I know I’ll be picking it up soon.
In this story we follow a teen girl, Latavia, who due to some challenges in her home-life, goes to stay with her Aunt in the small town of Sanctum, Alabama.
From the start her Aunt institutes a lot of rules: don’t go out after dark, come home directly after church, and definitely don’t stray into the woods…
It’s strange, but Latavia isn’t here for a holiday. It’s just a stop-over for 6-weeks before she leaves for college. She’s not here to shake anything up, so she keeps her head down and tries to do as her Aunt directs.
Nevertheless, trouble catches up with her one night when she is kidnapped from her Aunt’s house, dragged to the very same woods she was instructed to avoid, and offered up as human sacrifice to the ancient monster who lives there.
Latavia isn’t going down without a fight though, and this monster may have met its match. Latavia is willing to do anything to survive, including bargain with the monster, and maybe even risk becoming one herself.
Y’all, you have to be intrigued by this set-up. An ancient monster that lives in the woods on the outskirts of a small town. Residents ready and willing to sacrifice the new girl to feed the monster’s hunger.
What the heck is going on here!?
I was amazed at how quickly I got sucked into this story. I started reading it one Saturday and then the next thing I knew, the sun had set and I was 71% of the way through.
I really enjoyed Latavia’s perspective. I love the new girl trope, especially when that is paired with a creepy small town vibe, where all the residents behave strangely. Going along with Latavia as she tried to navigate just getting by in this town was interesting.
I also enjoyed how Lewis added some more thoughtful, hard-hitting themes as well, in addition to the Darker Fantasy elements.
I liked learning about the reasons behind Latavia coming to Sanctum in the first place. She was really going through some difficult things and in one respect, it was great that she had an Aunt willing to take her in, but then, you know, the human sacrifice and stuff, so it was a bit of a mess.
Also, Latavia did have a love interest over the course of this story and watching their relationship blossom was very sweet. In spite of everything going on, or maybe because of that, they grew close fairly quickly, but it all felt quite natural to me.
At the end of the day, this story just had so many fun and interesting elements, and Lewis was able to blend them all seamlessly. The new girl trope, small town secrets, Sapphic romance, a man-eating monster and a murder cult. Seriously, what else do you need!?
I was hooked from the start, and while there were some things that weren’t perfect for me, I still had a great experience with it and found it super compelling.
As mentioned above, I am definitely planning to read more from this author, starting with Bad Witch Burning. If you like Dark, YA Contemporary Fantasy, channeling small town vibes and dangerous secrets, you absolutely should check this one out.
Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was a lot of fun!