Book Review: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Posted June 5, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 2 Comments

Delicate Monsters

by Stephanie Kuehn

Delicate Monsters

Expected Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Length: 240 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

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From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

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I loved both Charm & Strange and Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn, so it breaks my heart a bit that I didn’t have the same love for this book, but Delicate Monsters and I had a rough road. Much love Kuehn’s previous two books, Delicate Monsters is a dark and twisted book, though it hides fewer surprises in its pages.

Delicate Monsters follows three characters: Sadie, Emerson, and Miles. Sadie’s back in town after a stint away for almost killing a boarding school classmate, Emerson doesn’t like that Sadie’s back because she knows all his secrets, and Miles has his own struggles between his “visions” that alert him when bad things are going to happen and a pretty constant sickness. There’s some mystery in the book, but they’re on the smaller side and not the main focus of the plot. Delicate Monsters deals mostly with how these three characters interact.

Part of the issue I had with Delicate Monsters is that three characters felt like too many to focus on in such a short book. Just when I felt Kuehn was starting to really delve into the grittiness of these characters and what made them tick, the book was over. It was like peeling back one layer, expecting to find another underneath, and hitting a brick wall at 90 miles per hour.

I found this particularly frustrating with Sadie, because her story had the potential to be the most interesting. Sadie is portrayed as a psychopath–and I don’t say that in the short-hand way we usually mean those words, I mean that she is written as having a textbook case of actual psychopathy –until that just sort of. . . subtly shifts. Sadie does things because she’s bored, whether that’s collecting dead animals or almost killing a classmate or anything else. She lacks empathy, but then she sees Miles around and while she doesn’t necessarily care about him, she starts working towards that at the very least. Why? It’s never addressed.

I did think the other character arcs made more sense, and thought that Miles’ characterization in particular was well-done. It was more satisfying as far as the overall narrative went, as well as Emerson’s. Both these character are also hiding some dark secrets, and I do think this is one thing Kuehn excels at writing that’s present in all three of her novels.

Delicate Monsters is harsh and brutal. It made me cringe more than once, and it doesn’t shy away from anything. Unfortunately, I thought most of it was underdeveloped and felt unfinished. And I don’t actually mean the ending scene by that(actually that, while fairly ambiguous, was probably my favorite scene), but it felt like there was too much left unanswered in other parts of the book for it to be satisfying overall.

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Delicate Monsters had some high points, but it felt really underdeveloped and spread too thin. 2/5 cupcakes. 

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2 Stars

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2 responses to “Book Review: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

  1. I just started this!! Bummer that you didn’t love it 🙁 I had mixed feelings about Complicit, but thought the writing was great… so that led me to be excited about this book. But like I said I just started it, so I haven’t got any opinions yet.

    • Stormy

      I hope you like it more than I did! Most people seem to be enjoying it, but it just wasn’t for me. I’ll stick with Charm & Strange and Complicit for now.

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