Of Men and Monsters is the perfect summer read. It’s short, accessible, and capitalizes on all that wonderful coming-of-age nostalgia so many of us love and crave.
This novella is narrated by the adult Ryan Baxter as he reflects back on the most important summer of his life. Ryan and his brother are whisked off to a small beach town by their mother in an attempt to escape an escalating, violent situation at home. They move into a quaint, charming cottage and settle into their new life with a little trepidation and worry that they will eventually be followed. The older brother seems to assimilate into the seaside lifestyle quickly making friends and meeting girls. Ryan’s mother gets a job at a local restaurant so Ryan is left home alone to explore, and he makes an interesting discovery in the attic.
The author employs a simple, straightforward style of storytelling similar to what readers would find with a middle-grade chapter book, but it never feels too young or watered down. It’s an honest, bare-bones approach that I appreciated because it works for this story. It’s refreshing to pick something up that captures the spirit of summer that’s easy to follow and keeps you interested.
I do have a few complaints that are worth mentioning.
There’s a side story involving one of the girls Ryan meets that introduces a heavy subject that seemed out of place. It doesn’t get the proper attention it deserves, making it feel like an afterthought or something intentionally added to give the story more weight or darkness. It could have been eliminated easily without changing the storyline, so that’s concerning. I’m not sure why it was there.
Also, the boys are fourteen and eleven but in my mind, they translated slightly older, Ryan thinks and acts more like fourteen, while Matt could easily be sixteen. There’s a lot of talk between the brothers about girls, making out, and drinking beer that would be more appropriate if the boys were slightly older.
The pacing of the story goes off the rails toward the end. Everything happens so fast without a proper lead up, so some of the major events don’t land the punches. There’s just not enough time given for the impact to register.
All of that being said, I did enjoy this story. It’s engaging and I invested enough in these characters that I needed to know what would happen to them. Recommended to fans of coming-of-age, small-town horror, and summer-beachy vibes.