“Tom Deady hit this one way out of the park.”—Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-WARS and INK
In June of 1975, Ryan Baxter’s mom moves him and his brother, Matt, to the small seaside town of Bayport, MA to escape their abusive father. For an eleven-year-old, spending lazy days hanging out at the beach and the arcades sounds like a dream.
When he meets Leah and she agrees to be his girlfriend, Ryan is happier than he’s been in his young life. Then the “Sea Monkeys” knock-off he bought from the back of a comic book starts to grow…and grow and grow.
As Ryan and Matt struggle with their new lives and new friends, they begin to receive mysterious phone calls. As the sea monster in their house begins to get out of control, the real monster draws nearer to Bayport in the shape of their father.
Bram Stoker award-winning author Tom Deady’s latest novella offers the perfect summer read with a coming-of-age tale of first loves, comic books and murderous sea creatures.
After an incident at home becomes the final straw for his mother, Ryan, along with his older brother Matt, find themselves driven across the country to a beautiful beach-front property at Bayport, escaping their abusive father and hoping to start a new life.
Things start off promisingly for the boys as they make friends quickly, meet some girls, and soon settle into their new normal. The specter of their father looms large, however, and ominous phone calls suggest he may have found them. Coupled with the mysterious creature that has made a home in their bathroom, these events will come to a head, resulting in a summer the two brothers will never forget.
There was a lot about Of Men and Monsters that really spoke to me, and that I enjoyed a great deal. The idyllic seaside setting was very evocative and the relationship between the two brothers was heart-warming and felt very genuine. I particularly like how the darker, more unpleasant suggestions of domestic violence and abuse were told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old, somebody who obviously sees the negative impact it is having on his family, but may not have a sense of the wider implications, leaving the reader in the position of perhaps having a greater understanding of the protagonist’s situation than the protagonist themself.
The fact that the lead character is eleven years old, however, forms perhaps the only major issue I had with the book. As much as I liked Ryan, to my ear at least, he does not talk, act or think like an eleven-year-old. He comes across as astonishingly adult, his phrasing often that of a particularly articulate grown-up and his interactions with his mother, in particular, come across as two peers and not a mother-son relationship. Nowhere is this more evident than with his burgeoning relationship with Leah. What should be a sweet summer romance between two pre-teens reads as far too mature, like a couple several years older. It is jarring and pervades the whole book and while it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story, I would have enjoyed the book a whole lot more if its lead had acted more authentically their age.
I am an absolute sucker for coming-of-age tales however and, coupled with some killer sea monsters, it is a book that is a lot of fun, while also tackling some tough themes, deftly managing the two so that the book never wallows in the darker subject matter, but always maintains a low-key sense of dread throughout. Of Men and Monsters was an enjoyable summer read and as my first experience reading Tom Deady, it’s a book that has made me curious to check out his other work.
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