the Little Red Reviewer

Broken Monsters, Read with a Friend!

Posted on: May 25, 2019

Last month,  Book Forager and I read Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters. This book came out a while ago, but we both realized it was a book we had been meaning to get to. . . and just needed a nudge to finally read.   As we each got through different portions of the books, we’d email back and forth our thoughts and questions for each other.  Our conversation morphed in a shared Google Doc for us to chat back and forth about our favorite characters, the weirdness of this book, the ending (holy crap that ending!!), and that a book that is ostensibly about a serial killer made me cry.

 

Below, is one half of our conversation,  head over to Book Forager this weekend to read the other half!

 

 

Who were your favorite characters?

Book Forager: I’m torn between Layla, TK and Clayton. Layla is such a badass and I still think she’s the hero of the book. Yes, she’s a teen who’s trying to sort everything out in her head and work out who she is, but she’s got some serious backbone. She takes on VelvetBoy and Travis (which was awesome!), and she seems to understand better than anyone else what’s going on in the factory at the end. She admires Cass without realising just how frigging awesome she is herself.

 

I loved TK from the moment he found those red shoes and handed them over to Ramón instead of keeping them for himself. Everything about his story breaks my heart. At the end of my copy of the book there was an interview with Beukes (was there in yours, Andrea?) and in both that and her acknowledgements she mentions James Harris from the NOAH project at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, who allowed her to use details from his personal history. I’m guessing that’s why TK feels so real. Real or not, he’s loyal and smart, an incredibly sympathetic character, and has an odd super power involving chairs.

 

And Clayton. He’s just so well written. I have a soft spot for characters who struggle to interact with the world in an acceptable way. He’s incredibly creepy, and deluded, and I’m not sure I can scrape up that much empathy for him, but I still have a little. At least I did at the beginning. I feel like he’s not quite fully formed, if that makes any sense? I’m guessing he may not be on your favourite characters list Andrea, but how did you feel about Clayton Broom?

 

Andrea:  You guessed right, Clayton totally creeped me out! And yes, I 100% get what you mean that he didn’t feel fully formed. Do you think that was on purpose?  That he’s looking for something that will make him feel (or literally be) fully formed? I’m such an idiot, I thought my book didn’t have the interview in the back. . . .  and I just looked again, just now, and of course it’s there. How did I miss that before??

 

At first I really liked Jonno, more on him in a bit.

 

It’s funny, at the beginning of the book, it looks like Gabrielle and Jonno are being presented as the main characters. And yes, they are both important, but I felt like as the book progressed, Layla, and by extension, Cas, become the main characters.  It is awful that this thriller about a freaky AF serial killer is really Layla’s coming of age book? She starts as this quiet “don’t look at me” kind of girl who is overshadowed by her boisterous best friend, and the tables kind of turn by the end, in a good way.   The crazy shit Layla and Cass do to Velvetboy? Holy crap! And like, I don’t think Layla figures out exactly who she is by the end, but she sure figures out who she isn’t. And wow, what a bonding experience between her and her mom!!!

 

Layla has a unique way of looking at the world,  and I think for teenagers, that unique way is totally normal.  But us adults, we’ve forgotten how to look at the world in such a unique way. If she hadn’t been at the warehouse at the end, the book would have had a much more gruesome ending, I think.  I wonder if Beukes sort of wrote the lead up to the end backwards? Like, she knew Layla had to be there . . . so how to engineer the scenes before to make sure Layla is there? I bet all authors do something like that, where they know certain characters need to be in certain places for certain things to happen, so how do to you make sure people have a legit reason to be where they are supposed to be at the right time?

 

Book Forager: Huh … this is going to sound dumb, but it never occurred to me that Clayton’s not-quite-fully-formed-ness was something deliberate. But that makes complete sense (I feel a real wally!) of what happens to him in the woods (even though I think Beukes is deliberately vague on that score, perhaps to keep the reader guessing about the supernatural elements until later on), and why.

 

Yeah, I felt like Gabrielle and Jonno were going to be the key players too, and I liked the way Layla and Cass slowly moved into the spotlight, how the whole book starts out feeling like a typical procedural and slowly twists into something much more.

Did your favorite character(s) change by the end of the book?

Book Forager: No. I just loved TK and Layla more by the end. And I still appreciated the work that’s gone into making Clayton so skin-crawlingly scary. I liked the way he kept popping up in different POVs, the book-equivalent of those movie moments where you scream at the screen, “He’s right there!!”

 

But my opinion of Jonno degraded as the book went on. I quite liked him at the start and I found his struggles to find a way to work in the short-attention-span over-before-it’s-begun world of the internet interesting. His vulnerability and desire to be recognised sort of make him a more socially adept version of Clayton. But some of his decisions when he gets hold of his story are so utterly self-serving that I got angrier and angrier with him.

 

Andrea:    Clayton showing up all over the place, I know, right???!!!  Seeing him at events, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in Silence of the Lambs, where she hasn’t realized that she’s knocked on the right door. And for a few minutes, she’s like “sorry to bother you, sir”.

 

I’m totally with you on the Jonno thing.  At first, he was one of my favorite characters, but yeah, as his plot line progressed I was less and less thrilled by him. As I got to know him better,  he started seeming sad and desperate. I’m such an ass, if I was dating Jonno, I’d ghost him. Although, i did love that social media bit at the very end with Jonno in the reddit-style board.

 

Book Forager: Yes, yes, yes!! I thought of Silence of the Lambs too! And the bit in Zodiac where they’re interviewing Arthur Leigh Allen in the factory and he appears to be taunting them … creepy creepy creepy).

 

Without giving spoilers, what did you think of the ending?

Book Forager: I loved the ending! I was disappointed, about half way through, that there hadn’t been more murders, because the story is usually in the deaths themselves – how the killer changes and perfects her/his method, how s/he picks her/his victims – but by the time we got to the factory I was satisfied. Not that I’m bloodthirsty at all! I loved how everything changed. How reality got distorted. I also loved how Gabi’s experience was completely different to Layla’s and TK’s. I have a theory Andrea, and I want to know what you think: I wonder if Layla was able to best understand what was happening in the factory because of her experiences growing up in a world of social media, where creating fictions about yourself and identities and ‘bending’ reality is common practice? What do you reckon?

 

Andrea: lol, you are so bloodthirsty!!  I’m the opposite, I was super nervous that this book would be all about how the killer chooses their victims, perfects their method, taunts the police. That kind of stuff gives me nightmares, so I was totally ok that it’s mostly skipped.   I LOVED the ending in the warehouse!! The imagery was excellent, the action was well described, the tension and Gabby and Layla’s fear was through the roof! The thing on the guy’s face, it was awful and gross, but it was intricate and beautiful and I wanted to know everything about it and what it was supposed to do and why it could maybe do that. I bit my fingernails nearly clear off!   I suck, and it’s been at least two weeks since I read that scene, but doesn’t Layla have some hobbies involving art or photography or something? I was thinking more along those lines, that her appreciate for art, and her appreciation for how artists see the world was the thing that gave her the insight into what the hell might have been going on.

 

The scene where Gabi puts Layla in her car and tells her to drive away, go somewhere safe,  that scene made me cry so much! I remember I was sitting at our kitchen table, and my husband was doing something in the living room (open floor plan), and i’m sitting at the kitchen with tears streaming down my face, and I yell out loud “you are supposed to be a serial killer book! You are not supposed to make me cry!!!”  Yes, my husband looked over and thought I was completely nuts.

 

Book Forager: I can’t remember exactly, but I think Layla was in a theatre group?

 

Aww, you cried? *hugs* I was so tense by that time that I was simultaneously willing Layla to drive as fast and as far as she could and dreading that she wasn’t going to be able to. I was also half-expecting Clayton to make an appearance then and do something to Gabi which would force Layla to chase him or something. Beukes did an awesome job of Gabi and Layla’s relationship though to have us both in a state at that point in the story, don’t you think?

Andrea:  yes! That’s it, she was in a theatre group! I feel silly that I forgot that.

 

There’s a lot more that we talked about!  Head over to Book Forager this weekend for the rest of our conversation.

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5 Responses to "Broken Monsters, Read with a Friend!"

I was just over at Bookforager, read the other half of the discussion there! What great questions and comments! I love this book, I really need to check out more by Beukes 🙂

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[…] Red Reviewer and I did this buddy read together (so much fun!!), which means you’ll find the first half of our discussion on her site, which is where I’d advise you to start. If you’ve found your way over here from there, […]

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Andrea, this was so much fun! Thank you so much for doing this with me. 😀 I hope we can buddy read again some time. ❤

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I missed Five for Friday this week. Happy Memorial Day.

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i missed it too! bad planning on my part. Five for friday will have its triumphant return later this week.

Happy Memorial Day!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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