At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.
At the great UKYABA awards evening, many months ago, I received a gift bag that contained a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch (my fav), a paper luggage tag and a proof copy of Monster by C.J.Skuse. I think, if my memory serves me, I ran and grabbed a bag once I found out what it held. I adore C.J.’s books and was dead keen to start reading it.
Monster is a truly old school horror story that doesn’t dumb-down the gore or scares just because it’s a teenage audience. The story slowly builds up over the course of the book and even towards the end, you’re not quite sure who or what the “bad guy” is and who we can trust. C.J. throws curveballs and red herrings from every angle until you can’t be sure what is real or not anymore. It’s a well put-together piece of horror fiction that certainly stands out in the teen market place. There is little at fault in this book; I did look because I don’t like to just gush about a book just because I’m friendly with an author. I’ve known C.J. for many years now and would be honest if Monster wasn’t up to scratch; but it really is.
After Dead Romantic, C.J.’s previous publication, she’s really taken a step up in her game and isn’t simply writing for a teen audience; she’s writing good fiction that has a younger main character. I loved the mixture of characters and personalities, falling completely in love with the sass queen that is Maggie. Nash as our main character starts out as a single-minded and focused person but develops hugely over the book when external forces make her realise that your world can change in one heartbeat.
Monster is a tension-packed thrill ride that has a dash of classic horror cliches as well as some clever ideas thrown in for the sheer fun of it. Monster teaches us that scary monsters don’t just live under our beds or in our imagination; they are everywhere if we really look for them. C.J. Skuse has proven herself as a great contemporary writer and has now turned her hand to horror with the same high level of skill.
Published by MIRA Ink and is available in bookshops and online in September 2015