By Stephanie Kuehn
Available now from St. Martin's Griffin
DELICATE MONSTERS is a singular experience. It's dark as hell, a look into some very twisted minds. Sadie Su has just come back to town. She's a vicious girl who likes people who do bad things, who seriously injured a boy to make him not like her. Emerson Tate, her much poorer neighbor, dislikes that she has come back since she knows that he's a psychopath. Meanwhile, his younger brother Miles is suffering homophobic bullying and the effects of an idiopathic illness. All three exchange narration duties, their pasts, presents, and futures intertwined.
Plenty of DELICATE MONSTERS is hard to read because of the accurate depiction of human viciousness. There's homophobic language, as previously mentioned, that escalates. There are references to past racist statements made by Emerson, thrown in his face by Sadie when he starts dating a black girl. There's violence inflicted on animals and children. There's sexual assault. This is not a novel for the delicate.
I'm sure many will dislike the characters. Emerson appears to be the golden boy, but he does some awful things. At the same time, his thoughts are fascinating. I particularly liked Sadie, who is just plain strange. She doesn't do the things most people would do, but her actions make sense for who she is. Miles contrasts them both as the innocent one who doesn't deserve what's happening to him. At the same time, he has a dark side too. All three narrators are capable of violence.
DELICATE MONSTERS is one of those books where it is hard to categorize your reaction. It's the sort of story most authors don't tackle. Stephanie Kuehn has the talent to pull it off, but most authors don't. I was slightly disappointed by the end, which could use a touch more resolution. There's a moment of catharsis, but I felt that only Sadie's story was complete.