Read: 19th August 2020
Spoilers in review: Possibly very mild
Rep: bi mc, latina lesbian mc
CW: homophobia, internalised homophobia, natural disasters, memory manipulation/gaslighting, gun usage, cops shown sympathetically
It’s 1993, and Claire has been sent to the Texan coastal town of Indianola to look after her ailing grandmother, who doesn’t like her very much, for the summer. She quickly discovers that ‘monsters’ showing up is a regular occurrence for the people living there, but nobody ever remembers that the monsters exist once they leave the town. She strikes up a friendship with Julie, whose family runs most of the businesses in the town, and they do their best to make the best of a strange situation. She also meets Audrey, a picture-perfect overly friendly cheerleader who Claire’s grandmother is intent on her becoming friends with, who gives Claire a bad feeling.
The relationship between Julie and Claire was really sweet! There were plenty of scenes throughout the book where they got to just spend time with each other and hang out, and I could believe their growing friendship and romantic feelings were genuine. Sometimes they were geeking out about movies and niche anime, and sometimes they were investigating the love lives of their ancestors, but no matter what they were doing it was very obvious that they made a good team and a good couple.
I especially liked Julie, and found her POV chapters to be slightly more engaging for me than Claire’s. When we meet Julie, she’s secure in her sexuality, which means that the process of her falling for Claire wasn’t full of her questioning what she was feeling, which I appreciated. She’s also brave, strong willed, and getting more and more fed up each day with the adults in her life’s refusal to act when things start to go wrong. In her very first chapter she goes to yell at the leader of the ‘monsters’, which I would never have been brave enough to do if I were in her position.
Something that I enjoyed was how the extraordinary – the presence of the ‘monsters’ and the effect they have on everyone’s memory – was treated as being mundane by the majority of the cast. Obviously, Claire was unused to it, but Julie viewed being made to work in the exterminators office, and so occasionally having to herd the ‘monsters’ back where they were supposed to be, was treated as if it were a boring chore. She’d much rather work in the video store! The contrast between her and Claire’s attitude was interesting, and I’m always a sucker for things that are out of the ordinary being seen as completely ordinary.
There’s a lot of dramatic irony in this book. Certain things that happened were forgotten by the character in question almost immediately after they happened. This was done intentionally, so it’s not a calling card of bad writing like it can sometimes be, but it does mean that the reader ends up knowing more about what’s actually happening than either of the two narrators do until the end. Personally, this got a little grating after a while. When a story employs dramatic irony, I prefer it to be either for a very short amount of time (like in Sorcery of Thorns) or very clear to the reader about the reality of the situation (like in Death Note). The dramatic irony here lasted for nearly the whole book, and wasn’t as clear as it could’ve been, and this hindered my enjoyment somewhat.
When I finished the book, certain aspects of the situation were still unclear to me. How everything works and why the villain’s plan stood a chance at succeeding wasn’t very well explained. I usually like stories that involve timelines or time travel, but my standards are high. Unfortunately, I don’t think that that aspect of this book met those standards. It’s not the worst I’ve seen by a long way, but it was just pretty solidly ‘eh’.
The words ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, and ‘bisexual’, are not used in the text. I’m sure I’m not alone in preferring the words to be used in the text.
Out of curiosity, this morning I checked to see if Indianola, Texas, was a real place, and I found out that it used to be! The town was ultimately abandoned in 1886 after its second hurricane in a decade. As of this writing, this second hurricane was the sixth strongest known to have hit the United States in the country’s history. I found this pretty interesting, and I think that maybe the published version of this book could benefit from including a note about it.
Ultimately, this was an enjoyable read! It’s not a new favourite, but I’d encourage anyone who’s curious about it to check it out.
I received an e-arc through Edelweiss in return for an honest review