Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Delicate Monsters
by Stephanie Kuehn
Published by St Martin's Griffin
on June 9, 2015

Source: finished copy sent by publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. 
My take: I've been a big fan of Stephanie Kuehn since her debut YA book, Charm and Strange. I also read her second book, Complicit. Her books are hard to review, because I don't want to give too much away. But here goes: Kuehn's books always seem to feature beautiful writing, a haunting, dark quality, and characters who are unconventional or have a secret, or are unreliable (or all three!)

Delicate Monsters has all those characteristics and more. It's the story of three teenagers: Sadie, who's back in town after being kicked out of yet another school, Emerson, a seeming golden boy with secrets of his own, and Miles, the younger brother of Emerson.

Sadie and Emerson and knew each other years back, and all three attend the same northern California high school, where their paths cross in ways. (I love the way this book doesn't romanticize high school -- in this story the teenage life she portrays is both realistic and disturbing without being sensationalized.) Kuehn's writing is so skilled and so subtle -- there's something effortless about the way she slowly reveals her characters. YA has had a lot of unreliable narrators in fiction recently, and many authors who use the technique use it to create a big, shocking reveal at the end. (Yes, Kuehn has done this in other books, but not just for the shock value. ) I love the way she lets the reader think they understand a character: "bad girl," "golden boy," "outcast," and then gradually reveals that none of her characters are what they seem.  (Kuehn's characters do seem more amoral than the average person, but they also seem very real. ) And to me, what Kuehn's work also seems to point out is that all of us are somewhat unreliable when it comes to being honest about ourselves -- about our motivations, our mistakes, our feelings, our secrets.

I thought that Delicate Monsters had less of a page-turning plot than Complicit. (Not every reader agrees with me on this.) The ending is dramatic, yet still sort of ambiguous. In the end, all I can say is that if you're already a fan of Kuehn's, you'll definitely want to read this. If you haven't tried a Stephanie Kuehn book, you are really missing out.

21 comments:

  1. There seem to be a lot of unreliable narrator/big twist books out there right now. I liked the trend at first but now I'm getting kind of bored with it. lol

    It sounds like the writing is really good here though and I haven't read anything by Kuehn before.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. I like that she doesn't use it as a gimmick -- it's really who her characters are.

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  2. I definitely feel like I need to read Stephanie Kuehn book now! I have seen pretty much all things about this one so I will be checking this and the other ones out - Great review!

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  3. I love her and can't wait to read this one.

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  4. Twins today! I have this up on my blog too. I loved it, Jen!
    Okay, though, this is my first book by this author so I can't compare it to her previous two although I am having a fit to add Complicit to my shelves immediately (I already have Charm & Strange). I think I loved the same things that you loved, probably. I loved the narration, I loved the way that I thought I knew the characters but nope! I loved the writing, OH how I loved the writing. I agree about the ending and while I wouldn't *mind more, I think it works with this book. Loved this one though and now I'm itching to find out what the previous two are about. I'm seeing so much about Complicit but C&S is an award-winner, I think, so I'm TORN. (C&S may win because that's what I have on my shelf!)

    Glad we both loved this one, Jen!

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    1. I left a comment on your review. Her books are different yet similar (deep, huh?)
      I'd start with Charm and Strange, and then read Complicit. But it doesn't really matter!

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  5. I need to read this book since it's in Northern ca :) but also I am liking the unreliable narrator now :)

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    1. *squints at map* Sonoma is Northern California, right?

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  6. Brilliant review. It's so hard to review Stephanie Kuehn's books without giving away spoilers. I do agree that the ending for this one was a lot more ambiguous than her previous works as well. But overall, her writing is just so damn compelling. Can't wait to see what she comes out with next.

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    1. I didn't mind the ending -- it fit!

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  7. Great review Jen! I read Complicit and it was good! So I'll definitely be trying this one, and she does have such amazing writing and always has some dark elements of surprise!

    Happy Reading!
    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

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  8. I did read Complicit and loved it. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't realize this was hers as well. Definitely reading it. Her writing has a great pull.

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  9. Hmmm this one is new to me but sounds like I should read one of hers

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  10. She's fast becoming an intimidating author for me. I do have those two books you mentioned. I don't know. I guess I should at least read one of them so I can have a taste of work.

    Great review, Jen.

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  11. I have yet to pick up anything by this author, but every review I read of her books convinces me to check them out. I have no idea why I still haven't picked up any! That certainly needs to change. I like that she has unreliable characters and that her books are hard to review (I think those make for some of the best books!).
    Lovely review, Jen!

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  12. Oohhh this one sounds curious about the different characters and their motivations. I'm interested in seeing what their secrets are! Wonderful review Jen!

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  13. This seems like the kind of book I would love!

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  14. This seems like the kind of book I would love!

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  15. This seems like the kind of book I would love!

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