Monster by C J Skuse

Monster by C J Skuse

Billed as ‘Malory Towers’ meets ‘I know what you did last summer’, this psychological thriller will keep you turning the pages and guessing to the very end. A must-read for teens.

More than anything else, sixteen year-old Nash wants to be Head Girl of Bathory School. Indeed she’s willing to put up with almost anything to get the top job. But, just when she’s poised to be awarded the role, everything starts to unravel. Nash and a group of school misfits have to stay at school over the Christmas holidays and, trapped by the worst weather in decades, suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives. Not everyone is going to survive.

Billed as ‘Malory Towers’ meets ‘I know what you did last summer’, this is very much a book in two parts. The first part, in which we meet Nash and are introduced to the set up at Bathory School, is reminiscent in many respects of Enid Blyton’s famous school including the draconian school rules and the rivalries between the girls. However, don’t expect the interests and conversation of the students to be in any way comparable. These are very much twenty-first century girls with the language and interests of modern teenagers.

I found this first section of the story, while undoubtedly well-written, hard to fully engage with. I didn’t really care whether or not Nash got the Head Girl badge and felt little sympathy for the other girls. I did, however, love the references to children’s classics that are scattered throughout this section, particularly the witty comparisons to Hogwarts.

The plot really takes off when, the set-up complete, the thriller takes over. Indeed, from this point on, the book becomes almost impossible to put down with great cliff-hanger chapter endings and nail-biting action on almost every page. I was soon rooting for every one of the girls and desperate for them to escape.

I’ve not read CJ’s other books but, full of pace and drama, ‘Monster’ certainly lives up to all the positive things I’ve heard about her writing. Just be aware that the subject matter is definitely for older readers with plenty of blood and authentic teen language that parents might feel unsuitable for pre-teen readers.

For an exciting psychological thriller, ‘Monster’ has more depth than most. Indeed, the book has one of the best endings I’ve read. Not only does it tie up all the clues that have been seeded throughout the book but – in a very rare event for me – it brought a tear to my eye. The ending makes you realise how, in addition to a cracking plot, this is a story of friendship and inner demons thereby making the title appropriate on more than one level.

CJ has a distinct young adult voice so, if you enjoyed Monster, you might also enjoy CJ’s other books: Dead Romantic, Rockoholic or Pretty Bad Things. Alternatively, if you’d like to read a different teen thriller, try Riot by Sarah Mussi.

ISBN: 978-1848453890
Date: September 2015
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Pages: 320 Madge's 4.5/5 Star Review Rating

Review first published on The Bookbag

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