My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

From the off there is a dizzying sense of unease and unfamiliarity with My Name is Monster. I found myself reading and desperately trying to make this world fit within my own, grasping for something known to me – of course, that is the beauty of dystopian fiction. The taking of what we know and twisting it, makes for a quite frankly terrifying read, and I found myself asking ‘what if’ regularly.

As the recent past unfurls through Monster’s thoughts we learn more about how this world has come to be. It is an incredibly claustrophobic read and the internalised thoughts of Monster perfectly portray the feeling of isolation. It does however feel as if she has simply been an observer rather than an active participant, she feels somehow other; less than human. I found it hard to relate to this detachment. She is so focused on survival, there is no room for emotion. It seems however, through her memories we learn that this is just the way she has always been. She is a brave choice for a main character, as I am sure she will divide opinion.

For me, the novel really gripped me after the arrival of the child (who Monster names Monster, renaming herself as Mother) and her chapters breathe new life into the book. As a young child she sees things differently to Mother, she remembers flashes of what was, but this new world really is her time and place. As well as a generational shift, the introduction of her character also enables a fascinating look at what constitutes motherhood, which becomes a key theme. The interactions and developing relationship between Mother and Monster was a highlight for me.

From part two to the end I was hooked, there were elements which I found a stretch in terms of believability, and I will be honest and say that I was initially disappointed by the ending. Upon reflection, it fits the book and the overall message and themes, and so perhaps my desire to reset this new world to something recognisable blocked its effectiveness?

Overall, My Name is Monster is a really interesting and disturbing read; wonderfully written and evoking a strong feeling of disorientation from beginning to end.

Synopsis

After the Sickness has killed off her parents, and the bombs have fallen on the last safe cities, Monster emerges from the arctic vault which has kept her alive. When she washes up on the coast of Scotland, everyone she knows is dead, and she believes she is alone in an empty world.

Monster begins the long walk south, scavenging and learning the contours of this familiar land made new. Slowly, piece by piece, she begins to rebuild a life. Until, one day, she finds a girl: feral, and ready to be taught all that Monster knows. Changing her own name to Mother, Monster names the child after herself. As young Monster learns from Mother, she also discovers her own desires, realising that she wants very different things to the woman who made, but did not create, her.

Inspired by Robinson Crusoe and Frankenstein, My Name is Monster is a novel about power, about the things that society leaves imprinted on us when the rules no longer apply, and about the strength and the danger of a mother’s love.

*I obtained an arc copy via Netgalley, the decision to read was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.

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