This was not a comfortable read. Bizarre and compelling, but definitely not comfortable.
Delicate Monsters is written from three perspectives: those of Sadie, Emerson and Miles, three disturbed teenagers whose lives intersect and whose fates seem intertwined. Sadie Su has just been kicked out of boarding school for almost killing a fellow student. She returns to her family’s vineyard in Sonoma and enrolls at the local high school where she meets Emerson, a boy she used to know as a child, and his brother Miles.
Sadie is a psychopath. Completely emotionally detached from those around her, she doesn’t care what people think about her, she has no empathy whatsoever, she almost killed a fellow student at her old school, she has no trouble lying to get what she wants and doesn’t feel remorse, shame or guilt.
Sadie wandered out to the main road and waited for cars to pass so that she could throw rocks at them.
She does have some small redemption at the end, but other than this she is terrifying and her emotional vacuum meant that I didn’t connect with her as a character. I was always curious to see what she’d do next, but ultimately she could have lived or died and I wouldn’t have cared either way. Actually, scrub that: I just wanted her to die so that the world could be rid of such a horrible person!
Emerson displays very disturbing tendencies as well. Arguably, his behaviour resulted in some part from the death of his father but not every child who loses a parent does the kinds of things he did. When he was ten, he cut the legs off a frog and masturbated as he watched it die on the ground. As an older teen, he gets the girl he is seeing to lay on the floor and pretend to be dead so he can do the same thing. He drink drives, he’s racist and he doesn’t care that his brother is being beaten by the school’s homophobic bullies. Like Sadie, I was torn between not caring what happened to him and wanting him to meet a sticky end.
Delicate Monsters left me wondering if the author has something against the townspeople of Sonoma. Seriously, there’s only one person in the whole book who seems to have any redeeming features - May - and at times it just seems like she’s there to act as a foil to the unpleasantness of all the other characters! Even poor Miles, who suffers under the weight of the visions he sees and is bullied mercilessly, saw visions of the Boston marathon bombing and the Japanese tsunami and let it all play out without attempting to warn anyone.
People kept dying and people kept suffering, even when he knew about it ahead of time.
Delicate Monsters plays out kind of like a soap opera, or The Jeremy Kyle Show. The writing is more graceful, but you still get the sense of watching awful people doing horrible things and you can’t quite bring yourself to look away. It’s completely compelling and leaves you wanting to take a shower afterwards.
I have to say, I didn’t enjoy reading Delicate Monsters (and I have a feeling that was the author’s intention) but I didn’t seem to be able to put it down either. I’d recommend this book for anyone who likes their YA very dark indeed.