A Tale of Two Forests: Contrasting The Devouring Gray with Here There Are Monsters (ARC)

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a free advanced reader copy of Here There Are Monsters for an honest review. Here There Are Monsters debuts August 6th. For full disclosure, I requested a review copy of The Devouring Gray and was denied, and then purchased The Devouring Gray with my own money. This in no way affects my opinions of the book.

The Devouring Gray was on my top ten TBR list for 2019, as I’m sure it was for many others. The marketing campaign for this book was pretty intense, and I was fully on the bandwagon. A small town setting with a Stranger Things comp? Sign me up, please.

Can you hear the “but” coming? I’m going to cut to the chase: The Devouring Gray was really disappointing to me. As has been the case with some other YA books I’ve read lately, this book could have done with a lot more page-turning plot and a lot less navel-gazing. Yes, I know that YA by its nature tends toward the introspective, but this book has… not much going on? I showed up for the malevolent presence lurking in the forest, but there’s actually not much forest action. The main character, Violet, is a Mary Sue to the core, and the characters flitting around her are boring. There is so much backstory that it feels like we are constantly playing catch up. Seeding of foreshadowed information and pacing were a further problem in this book, as well as awkward, confusing phrasing.

“Justin didn’t understand how it was possible to be simultaneously proud of May, relieved she’d known what to say, and jealous that he hadn’t. But he was.”

People don’t think it be it like it is, but it do.

So The Devouring Gray is an unfortunate pass for me, and I will not be picking up the second in the series when it releases.

Which leads me to Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé. Whereas The Devouring Gray dragged on and on, this was a total binge-read. As is the case with Gray, this book presents a main character who has lost her sister—here, “lost” is used literally, as the MC’s sister has disappeared somewhere into the sprawling, ominous swampland behind their house. The language is surprisingly lyrical, atmosphere suffuses every scene, and the characterization and dialogue are perfect. What Gray failed to accomplish with its forest setting, Monsters presents in spades.

I want to also touch on the sister dynamic in the book, which is extremely raw and real. The younger sister who’s gone missing, Deirdre, is a girl in her own world, constantly rubbing her older sister, Skye, the wrong way. A fair warning that Skye is very harsh to her younger sister—if you are looking for a likable MC, this is not the book for you. But not everyone is likable, and it is okay to tell their stories. I suspect that it is for the “unlikable MC” reason that this has a lower score on Goodreads (currently 3.43).

I would describe this as a book that pushes the envelope in terms of the sister relationship, one particular plot twist, and the ending. How I’ve longed for good YA horror; thank goodness this author has arrived on the scene.

So if you were at all disappointed by The Devouring Gray, I really recommend giving Here There Are Monsters a try. I will absolutely looking out for future releases from the author, and the story will be staying with me for a long while; I may even pick up a hard copy.

The Devouring Gray

Here There Are Monsters

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