Book: “Little Monsters” by Kara Thomas
Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, July 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.
Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.
Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.
But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.
Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.
Review: I did not grow up in a small town, but both of my parents did, and they have many stories from their childhoods about small town life and culture. Rumors and gossip were things that spread like wildfire, and get passed down from generation to generation and live longer than anyone imagines they would. I think of the story my Dad tells about a rumor that Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers from “In Cold Blood”, stopped in the town limits on their way to Mexico after they killed The Clutter Family. No can prove that they did, but to some people it’s absolute fact. I really enjoy stories that explore the power of rumor and urban legends, especially within small communities. Enter Kare Thomas and her novel “Little Monsters”. Thomas is making her way up alongside Stephanie Kuehn for must read YA thriller authors, as hot off the tail of “The Darkest Corners” she put out another stellar YA thriller and mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat and needed to know more. I have her upcoming novel “The Cheerleaders” sitting on my Kindle thanks to NetGalley, and I can tell you that’s going to get priority on my reading list thanks to this awesome read about small town society, and interloper trying to fit in, and rumors and urban legends that take on lives of their own.
Thomas brings us to the town of Broken Falls, Wisconsin as our protagonist Kacey settles into her new life with her father and his family. Kacey is damaged and wary, a teenager whose mother had been toxic and abusive and whose behavior prompted social services to step in. Her transition to a new life from a life where she felt completely unwanted makes for an interesting and complex protagonist, and Thomas writes her pretty well and believably. I totally bought into why she would cling to Bailey and Jade, and also understand why she may not see some of their manipulations for what they are. So, too, is she believable when she makes poor decisions in the face of accusations that she has something to do with Bailey’s disappearance. I found myself feeling to Kacey as well as wanting to shake her whenever she was confronted by a suspicious authority or community member, but at the same time a teenager probably wouldn’t be making the best decisions without guidance from a busy father and loving, but stressed, stepmother. The town of Broken Falls itself, from the physical description to those who populate it, also felt well fleshed out and realistic in the reaction to Bailey’s disappearance. My folks have many a story about the mistrust of outsiders, and outsiders being looked at first when something awful happens because of the false idea that no one from the community could POSSIBLY do such a thing. Such ideas can be very damaging, and to see them play out with a teenage girl at the center kept me on the edge of my seat, especially since Kacey herself dabbles in unreliable protagonist tropes herself.
The mystery itself is told through two POVs: Kacey’s, and then through diary entries that Bailey left behind but are seemingly only seen by the reader. This allowed for a slow burn of a reveal to unravel at a good pace, and I loved seeing the facts come out one by one. I was definitely tantalized by the various clues that would be laid out, and they all come together so neatly and tautly that I was pretty blown away by it. Thomas did a great job of setting this all up, and the payoff was well worth it. I definitely didn’t solve this a moment before Thomas wanted me to, and as the results fell into place I was genuinely caught off guard and then totally satisfied by it. The mystery also does a good job of slowly revealing truths not only about Bailey, but other people in the story, which make sense going back before they are revealed. And I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to leave the mystery at that.
The other component of this book that I REALLY enjoyed, even if it didn’t have as much obvious play, was the urban legend of The Red Woman. Broken Falls has a story about a man who murdered his family and burned down his house, but the body of his wife was never found. Now there is a legend about her ghost being seen on the property of the farm they shared, given the fact no one bought it and it has been left to rot. I LOVE a good urban legend, and Thomas does a really good job of creating a new, believable one that is INCREDIBLY creepy (images of and specters of bloody women running after dark, anyone?) and plays a very key, but subtle, role in the other themes of this book. I would read a book all about The Red Woman urban legend, if Thomas were so inclined to write it.
So all in all, “Little Monsters” was a fast, fun, satisfying read. Kara Thomas is up there with the other greats of the YA Thriller genre, and I can’t wait to see what she brings us with “The Cheerleaders”, and any other works that she puts into the YA literary world.
Rating 8: A tight and tense thriller with a solid mystery and creepy characters, “Little Monsters” is another winner from YA Thriller superstar Kara Thomas!
Find “Little Monsters” at your library using WorldCat!