Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Little Monsters
by Kara Thomas

For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.

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.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected Publication date:  July 25th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Thoughts:
“Little Monsters” is narrated by seventeen-year old Kacey Young. She transferred from the city to a small town in Wisconsin on her junior year in high school. She had since then been close with Bailey and Jade. In the beginning of the book, Kacey’s two friends are picking her up for their usual end-of-the-week night escapades. This time they are planning to perform a seancĂ© in an abandoned barn where a ghost called the Red Woman is said to be lurking around. Just when they are about to sneak out though, Kacey’s sweet younger half-sister Lauren saw them and tagged along. After that night of botched seancĂ©, Kacey thought that everything is still okay among the three of them. To her surprise though the two girls decided to ditch her for a party they all agreed on going to. And worse, Bailey went missing after she left that party and everyone in town starts eyeing Kacey for answers.

The book got me hooked a few pages in. It started with a paranormal vibe stemming from a small-town ghost story. I honestly got the chills in some parts that I did a quick check if I am reading a paranormal YA book. I thought that it’s interesting to have something spooky as a springboard for a mystery thriller. The idea is to have the creeps for the spirits of the dead wear off slowly and replace it with a shattering disbelief on how living little girls can become monsters. The appeal of the theory did not translate well in this book though. The transition from paranormal to mystery thriller is rather clunky.

I partially blame it on the choice of Kacey as a narrator. Do not get me wrong, I like her character just fine. I can relate to how easily she accepted the first offer of friendship that came her way as a transferee student. I can imagine how hard she had tried to reinvent her reputation in her new family and new school. I am beside her when all of those efforts seem pointless because after Bailey’s disappearance, everyone, even people who matter to her, starts becoming a stranger in her eyes. In the end, she will always feel that she’s an outsider. Kacey’s situations are worthy of sympathy from the reader but my problem with her is in the context of the book she is in. She does not possess the shade and nuance that is essential in being the main source of narration of a mystery thriller. Although she was called in the police station a number of times for questioning, she lacks the sinister of being a full-blown suspect. As for the paranormal stuff going on in the book, she does not believe any of it in the first place so eventually the reader will also not take it seriously.

The book’s soft jabs at being suspenseful are interspersed with hit punches in the form of Bailey’s journal entries. Through her writings scattered in-between some chapters, we discover bit by bit this obsession building up inside her. Her character is wrought with intriguing psyche that will send the littlest hair of the reader stand on its end. I would love more of these ominous feels from the book but they were few and far between. When the final reveal came, I did not feel anything. It sort of just passed by me and I thought the book did not quite earn that dark ending. (I love dark endings, BTW!) I guess what the reader eventually needs is more vantage points for all those monstrous things that happened to seep through. Maybe something that will flesh out the other characters as well. I would have liked to know more about Jade who obviously has the least dimension among the three friends. And Lauren’s view on things would be quite valuable too because of her naivety. Plus she seems to really believe in ghosts and evil spirits.

“Little Monsters” is not entirely bad. I enjoyed a few things but also found a few things lacking. The characters are believable but some could use more spotlight. When measured up with the recent popular works of mystery thrillers, the book came a bit underwhelming. Okay just for context, this opinion is coming from someone who was amazed by “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train”. Although the target readers/main characters for those are adults, I see no reason why I cannot compare it with something for young adults. Without the scrutiny of that comparison however, I think this book decently showcased how people are effortlessly manipulated and threatened because of our fear of being friendless and alone. Read this if you seek a chilling thrill on the lengths that young girls will agree to do just to gain approval from their peers.

Diversity Watch:
Kacey, Bailey and Jade are all white.

Kacey’s stepbrother, Andrew, is half-Korean.

Mr. White, an art teacher wears dreadlocks and has brown eyes.

The characters in the periphery are pretty much diverse. One of the two nameless men mentioned talking about Bailey’s case is black. Other (I am also assuming this based on their surnames) characters who might be Asian are Mike Lin, one of Kacey’s classmates in art class and Mrs. Lao, an elderly neighbor.

A social worker named Dawn is lesbian and has a girlfriend.
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