Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. New York: Simon and Schuster BFYR, 2009. ISBN-10: 1416984488; ISBN-13: 978-1416984481. 454 p.

Plot Summary
"mon-strum-ology. n. 1: the study of life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore. 2: the act of hunting such creatures."

During the late 1800s, Will Henry is the orphaned assistant of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man who has devoted his life to the study of monsters. Will, like his father before him, has seen plenty of gruesome scenes as he assists with necropsies in Dr. Lathrop's basement laboratory, but nothing can prepare him for the horrors that are about to come. The Anthropophagi--headless monsters with sharp teeth in their bellies, who impregnate and then feed on humans, have been discovered in North America. As they begin to prey on a New England town, can Will and Dr. Warthrop discover a way to defeat these monters and keep their town safe?

Critical Evaluation
Rick Yancey spends a lot of time setting the scene and presenting the history of human interaction with the monsters, but the tension he spends time building develops into a nail-biter of a climax. Yancey attempts to imitate the Victorian language of classic horror such as Frankenstein and Dracula. On the whole, he succeeds, although his excessive use of alliteration sometimes seems forced. Yancey's exploration, not only of the horror of monsters, but of the downsides of unfettered human ego and vanity, starts slow, but ends up being a great read.

Reader’s Annotation
Will Henry is the orphaned assistant to a scientist who studies monsters. When a group of violent, bloodthirsty monsters is discovered in New England and begins stalking the residents of a small town,Will discovers the horrors that human vanity and pride can cause.

Author Information
Rick Yancey knew he wanted to be a writer since he was a child in Florida. He earned an English degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago, and then returned to Florida, where he taught and did some theatre work. He then began working as a revenue officer for the IRS, and eventually worked there for 10 years. However, he kept writing, and was able to leave the IRS after the publication of his memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector, in 2004. He has published six novels in addition to his memoir, including the Alfred Kropp trilogy for young adults and the Teddy Ruzak mystery series for adults. He lives in Florida with his wife and three sons (source). His website is www.rickyancey.com.

Yancey realized he wanted to be a writer in middle school. He says, "a teacher assigned a five-page narrative paper and I turned in 25 pages! I wrote a note to him, apologizing for the length, and he wrote back, “Never apologize for something you should be proud of.". He says his wife is the greatest influence of his writing career. "[She] knew how much the dream of being a professional writer meant to me and dreamed for me when I lost all hope. She rescued manuscripts from the trash, gave me pep talks and bought books to encourage me. She's my biggest fan and toughest critic."

Gothic horror

Curriculum Ties
English: A modern companion to be read with classic horror novels such as Dracula or Frankenstein to help teens learn to analyze the gothic horror genre.

Booktalking Ideas
-Read the passage where a monster explodes out of a cemetery grave to kill its first victim. It's gruesome and bloody, and will immediately set the scene and grab the interest of teens who like such things.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9-12. While the protagonist is a 12 year old boy, I would hesitate to recommend it to younger teens because of the graphic, gruesome violence the monsters inflict on humans during the course of the story.

Challenge Issues
Gory, graphic violence, similar to that of Stephen King.

I included this book because it was a 2010 Printz Honor Book, and it was also recommended on the blog A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy.


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