With the release of “Monster,” the first in a trilogy sequel, Michael Grant has brought readers back to the world of “Gone” and some of its characters. It’s four years after the dome came down in the last book in the first series, and those who had been trapped in the #FAYZ were able to leave. In fact, the prologue shares a story about that event from a new character’s point of view.
Readers will learn that some of the kids who suffered under the dome had severe mental problems after leaving; some committed suicide and others had PTSD. Few returned to normal. Dekka, one of the escapees from the FAYZ, is one of the main characters in this novel. The mother of a new character, Shade Darby, was killed at the same time the dome disappeared. Because Shade feels responsible for her mother’s being right where she was when she was killed by Gaia, the monster from the FAYZ, Shade’s life has been irrevocably changed.
It’s four years later, and as scientists have known for years, rocks infected with an alien virus are falling onto Earth. They are the same as the rock that fell and created the world of the “Gone” series. And people are finding the rocks and using them to create monsters.
Grant’s genius is creating monsters who are both wonderful and repellant. Some embrace their new power and, because of character flaws, are nightmarish monsters. Others are benign, and still others, like Shade, want to be heroes to the people and protect them.
There is also the clever plot element wherein those transformed by the alien virus are aware of voices in their head directing them to do things — bad things — so the unseen watchers/voices can watch. The voices are only apparent when the affected people morph into their “monster” bodies. Once the monsters return to human form, the voices disappear.
Grant’s unique ability to fuse humor and horror is especially apparent in this story. One of the teens is Armo, who has an oppositional defiant disorder. Give him an order and he’ll do the opposite. So when he teams up with Dekka, she has to learn how to not give him an order but get him to work with her. That situation leads to some intentionally clever and funny dialogue. Which is exactly what makes Grant’s books so beloved by so many readers — his ability to infuse even the most horrific scenes with humor.
I believe that Grant includes more diverse characters in his novels than most young adult novelists. In “Monster,” the diversity covers gender, race, mental illness, national origin, and anything else one might venture to think of. The plot is action-driven, which explains why Grant doesn’t go to great lengths to explore depth of character as it relates to each diverse condition. The diversity is part of the story, but doesn’t control it. It’s just there, included in a cast of different characters.
It’s exciting to think that more “Gone” novels will be forthcoming and that some more of the “old” characters from the FAYZ will be making appearances in the next novel.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Katherine Tegen Books, the publisher, for review purposes.