The Blair Witch Project meets Imaginary Girls in this story of codependent sisterhood, the struggle to claim one’s own space, and the power of secrets
Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. Moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over.
In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.
Then Deirdre disappears.
And when something awful comes scratching at Skye’s window in the middle of the night, claiming she’s the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.Here There Are Monsters, Amelinda Bérubé
August 1, 2019
I requested Here There Are Monsters for a few reasons. The back copy intrigued me: Codependent siblings? Why does Skye need to start over? Did Deirdre have a psychotic break? What came scratching at her window?
The last bit certainly hints at something fantastical and dark, but the writing simply did not. From the slow opening to the rushed ending, I just didn’t connect to these incredibly selfish sisters. Part of the draw for me was the codependency but all I saw were two sisters in a normal relationship. Skye wanted friends her age, Deirdre wanted to stay in their childlike world and was sad that Skye was growing up. Both sisters constantly demanded things of the other, only to be denied. It wasn’t healthy, but it certainly wasn’t an example of dependency when neither party was dependable.
Barely a day after Deirdre disappears, Skye sneaks out to go to a party. While there she confesses that she doesn’t want to be the center of attention because of her sister–but how selfish and uncaring is it to just walk out on your parents who are already worried about one missing daughter? And it’s here that we have the first of many “that’s just like Deirdre” comments. Skye blames Deirdre for everything, even after she disappears. After roughly three chapters of that pure disdain, I was over it.
While Skye’s secret is a doozy, the length of time that we we’re told she has a secret wasn’t worth it. Her violence is hinted at but not confirmed until halfway through the book when the monsters force her to tell her secret in order to get her sister back. So Skye beats up her friends and screams that she almost drowned a kid in their old home town.
And she did it for Deirdre.
Skye’s friends rightfully decide they won’t be friends anymore, except for one, who suddenly segues his way into the last half of the book. For the first half, William is just sort of there. Skye likes him a little. He likes her. Deirdre is mad that her sister has a sort of boyfriend.
Skye frequently goes over to Williams to shoot his compound bow-which brings me to a big personal note I have regarding archery: YOU DON’T USE A LEATHER FINGER TAB ON A COMPOUND BOW. Also, William hunts, so his bow would have, at least, a 60 lbs pull, and Skye would not be able to pull it to its full length unless she and William had the same sized arms. But she does it easily as so many YA heroines do.
Who knew I could do anything I wanted to on the first try?
Some way through the back third of the book, the monsters finally make an actual appearance. They don’t feel like anything but a break in Skye’s psyche, until William sees them. He reacts for a page and then admits that they’re real and pretty much moves on with his life.
TL;DR Deirdre didn’t run away she’s possessed by the woods and wants her sister back. Also she killed the cat.
The only chilly thing in Here There Are Monsters was the weather. I was very disappointed and kept waiting for it to meet my expectations.
My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆