Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams? If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.
If Lauren Beukes’s internationally bestselling The Shining Girlswas a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.
This is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read, which is fairly shameful considering she’s a local. But better late than never and all that. And she’s a very talented storyteller, that’s for sure. I enjoy her style, and her incredibly vivid imagination. The creepy elements really come to the fore in this novel, from all angles – child predators and serial killers and bullies and hybrid human-animal corpses. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
But there were two things that lessened my enjoyment of the book. The major one for me was the introduction of the paranormal element near the end of the book. For me, it was a complete let-down and came out of the blue. I felt the narrative stood well enough on its own as a police procedural, with the monsters and mayhem confined to the realities of the perpetrator’s head. The second aspect was the multiple perspectives, which were somewhat confusing and distracting initially.
The book packs a helluva lot of social commentary into its 400 or so pages. We have the evils of social media and the ravenous online media machine, high school sexual assault and bullies, race, poverty and feminism. Not to mention the overarching theme of art and remaking the world as you see fit, which is showcased in some interesting ways. Despite the inclusion of all these different elements, it feels quite organic.
I think the book has great crossover appeal for both YA and adult audiences, and I’m definitely going to be checking out the author’s other work. (I also loved the subtle digs she included in the book that only us South Africans would chuckle at!)