Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

My Name is Monster [review]

My Name is Monster by Katie Hale
Published by Canongate Books, Ltd on June 6, 2019
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.69 (as of 2020-05-05)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

After the Sickness has killed off her parents, and the bombs have fallen on the last safe cities, Monster emerges from the arctic vault which has kept her alive. When she washes up on the coast of Scotland, everyone she knows is dead, and she believes she is alone in an empty world.

Monster begins the long walk south, scavenging and learning the contours of this familiar land made new. Slowly, piece by piece, she begins to rebuild a life. Until, one day, she finds a girl: feral, and ready to be taught all that Monster knows. Changing her own name to Mother, Monster names the child after herself. As young Monster learns from Mother, she also discovers her own desires, realising that she wants very different things to the woman who made, but did not create, her.

I can really appreciate the appeal behind this novel, even if it didn’t do much for me personally. This is a quiet post-apocalyptic character study of two characters: Monster-turned-Mother and Monster (the second). The naming seems confusing, but it absolutely makes sense within the story and is quite easy to follow. The first half of the novel follows Monster (to-be-Mother) as she travels home following an apocalyptic war slash disease. The “Sickness” itself is more of a backstory and isn’t much focused on itself, but some of the flashbacks did remind me of the current situation we’re dealing with. Close to the halfway point, Monster comes across a young girl and decides to change her own name to Mother while referring to the girl as Monster.

I have not survived this long only to die on a shit-splattered beach in Scotland.

The concept is strange, but it works. The first half is a combination of flashbacks and present-day as Monster-to-be-Mother reflects on her life and deals with the struggles of surviving alone in a lonely, barren landscape. This is flipped in the second half as (the new) Monster bemoans the woes of her restrictive life and looks down upon Mother for her fear and dependency on their lifestyle. It was so frustrating for me to read Monster’s perspective since she’s the post-apocalyptic version of the spoiled brat. We learn in the first half of the novel the extensive trauma Mother has undergone and the pains she took to get where she is now. Monster follows this up by insisting she is braver than Mother and by continually placing herself in dangerous situations — or trying to.

People always marvel at waterfalls, and nobody pays enough attention to the chasm underneath.

I think, though, this is part of the point of the novel. Because Mother tries to forget her trauma instead of processing it and teaching Monster about the true dangers of the world, she enables this way of behavior and thinking. Monster cannot learn from Mother’s experiences if Mother does not share them. The problem is that it is just too difficult for me to read books where things could be solved by some simple communication. If Mother had just opened up, or given some kind of explanations to Monster, this all could have been averted. Regardless, it is fairly well-written and as I said, I can see the appeal.

Decisions made at night are tricksters, elusive and fickle, slippery as fish.

I do wish some things were explained further. I don’t know if certain plot points just went over my head, or what. (The second) Monster’s past was so confusing to me. I know it was difficult to spell things out more clearly since she did not have the language to communicate it, but I was… not really sure what had happened to her. I think one of the plot points of her past was weirdly far-fetched and didn’t make any sense without explanation. Every time it came up, I was so confused!

[…]maybe healing really means making something different. Maybe getting better doesn’t mean going back to how it used to be, but moving forwards instead[…]

Overall, though, I’d say this is worth reading if it sounds like it suits you. Like I said, it is a character study so there isn’t a TON of plot. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic read, so I’d go for this if you like something a little more literary.

content warnings: apocalyptic war; graphic depictions of wounds; death of a loved one.

My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. Ninth House
  5. My Name is Monster
  6. Frankissstein

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17 thoughts on “My Name is Monster [review]”

  1. This sounds really fascinating. I totally get the frustration over problems that could be solved with basic communication but this still sounds like one I might try and read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! Conflict that could be solved with an honest conversation tends to irk me, but I do find the Frankenstein angle here appealing. It sounds like there are some very interesting themes even if the surface level story isn’t quite as strong. I’m glad you had better luck with this one after Frankissstein!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a slightly better experience with the book but I totally see what you mean – if Monster-Mother had just TALKED things would’ve been so much easier. But I feel like that’s why she was introduced earlier as a difficult, controlling (maybe cruel?) character, and this behavior didn’t quite strike me as too strange… as for the past of Monster 2…


    I understood that she was gang-raped after her mom committed suicide and the trauma was so huge she forgot how to speak and who she was, living then in the forest or so for a while. Which does NOT explain some things like, how did she not know snow?

    Also, do you know what happened to the oranges in the end? I get the impression that another group of survivors might have found it and that another civilization was going to form afterwards… but nothing is really SAID, so who knows

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree that the lack of communication was completely within character, but it frustrated me nonetheless haha.


      Oh, that would make a lot of sense! I could NOT figure out what happened after her mom committed suicide and that’s why I felt so lost. That actually makes things a lot clearer if that’s the case. It did still seem strange to me that she knew all about insemination.

      I have NO IDEA. I thought perhaps other survivors OR animals got in OR the greenhouse broke and the trees could no longer survive?? I was really intrigued by it as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. [SPOILERS]

        Yes, to me too! I would have never guessed that kind of stuff without proper education, honestly, and if she had no idea what a man even looked like, I don’t see how she would just shove the “seeds” up and be like “Yeah that seems right!” . Sorry for the crudeness but it was a bit baffling to me.

        Katie Hale needs to put a Q&A about this book because I sure got lots of Qs left!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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