Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Of the 42 Books I've Read This Year, Only This One Gets An "A"

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sophie knows all about monsters.  She sees them everywhere.  Thanks to The Big Book of Monsters, which she always lugs with her, she can identify one in seconds.  The snarling boys who tease her at school are obviously goblins, Principal Marsh is just as swamp monster-ish as her name implies, and the bulky intruder who swoops in out of nowhere to date Sophie's mom can only be the cunning shapeshifter known as Koschei the Deathless.  Of course, she's also surrounded by good monsters, like her new friend, Autumn, whose bubbly nature marks her as a fairy and Sophie's kindly grandmother who can only be a good witch.  
It's not just The Big Book of Monsters that gives Sophie her special Spidey senses.  She knows monsters because she is one.  She's had a monster mark on her face since she was a baby.  Her mother, who's just a normal human, calls it a hemangioma, but Sophie knows it's more than a blood tumor birthmark.  It's an outward sign of her inner monstrous-ness.
  
When Sophie figures out how to create a spell powerful enough to end her monster curse and make her mark disappear, she vows to do whatever it takes to get rid of her sordid secret.  As she works to create the magical necklace that will disappear her mark forever, she'll discover true friends, a different perspective on the monster-filled world, and maybe, just maybe, a new way of seeing and appreciating herself—hemangioma and all.

I've read 42 books so far this year and only one has earned an "A" from me:  A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore.  This empowering MG novel boasts an engaging premise that will appeal to anyone who's ever felt out of place, sympathetic (but not pathetic) characters, and a compelling storyline that will keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next.  Sophie is a relatable character, not just because she feels other but because her thoughts and actions are age-appropriate for a girl who's celebrating her 11th birthday.  Her childlike worries feel authentic, which makes them even more heartbreaking.  As our heroine comes to some hard truths, however, she begins to see the world around her in a new light.  Coming to understand the beauty of her own—and others'—uniqueness opens her eyes.  Swore's skillful storytelling makes Sophie's transformation feel both organic and true.  The lessons she learns along the way are woven into the story subtly enough that A Monster Like Me never feels preachy or sappy.  It's simply a beautiful, entertaining, uplifting book that I enjoyed more than anything else I've read this year. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, and a little of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and depictions of bullying

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Monster Like Me from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

6 comments:

  1. If it's your favorite book this year it must be worth reading. (And I do love the idea of her lugging The Big Book of Monsters around with her wherever she goes.)

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  2. An 'A' from Susan is quite the recommendation! I also love the idea of taking The Big Book of Monsters with her all the time. I had a friend when I was in elementary school who had a large red birthmark on her face. Many people stared at her always. She was a great friend. I missed her when we moved away.

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  3. Oh I'm adding this one now! This sounds wonderful and heartbreaking and any book that moved you enough for you to give an A is definitely worth reading!

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  4. An A?! Wow! This sounds like such a great way to deal with a physical attribute that the character isn't happy with. So many people have something they feel that way about that many will connect with this one.

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  5. I am sort of emotional reading this review. The book sounds like it was beautifully executed, and your review reinforces my desire to read this book.

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