Book Review: Monsterland by James Crowley

Monsterland by James Crowley

Every autumn I pick out a few books related to the season and challenge myself to finish reading them before Halloween. This year I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which I absolutely LOVED) and am halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In between these bigger more famous novels I decided to take a break and read a kid’s Halloween story. Let me tell you what a absolute joy and surprise it was to stumble upon James Crowley’s Monsterland! What I had expected to be a cute simple story turned out to be a wonderful epic adventure I won’t soon forget.

The story takes place on Halloween and although the rest of the town is excited for the usual festivities like trick-or-treating and the yearly visit to Charlie’s grandfather’s famous Halloween haunt, poor Charlie doesn’t seem to really be into it this year. He’s depressed and can’t enjoy anything knowing that his cousin Billy went missing a year before while they were on an outing together by the lake. He misses him terribly.

Wow…that’s pretty heavy already. I lost my brother 3 years ago and I still miss him tremendously. So I totally feel this same sentiment as Charlie. With all that is going on in the world today and the 2020 pandemic I know a lot of other Halloween fans feel completely bummed out this year too.

After a series of events Charlie winds up following a shadowy figure who he thinks is his cousin through his grandfather’s pumpkin patch at night. This begins his journey to an unknown land where he discovers that monsters roam free. There is no end to the type of monsters here. We’re talking about witches and demons, werewolves and warlocks and so many others. Will Charlie survive this journey? Will he find his cousin Billy? How will he ever be able to return home without getting himself killed?

Map of Monsterland
The map of Monsterland where Charlie will embark on his greatest adventure.

I’ll let you find out for yourself. Let me just tell you that I could totally imagine this story being an incredible movie! It was so descriptive that I could envision the battle scenes and creatures Charlie encounters on his journey. Remember the movie “The Neverending Story”? About a little boy who begins reading a book about an epic adventure only to find out the story is actually about himself. That’s exactly how I felt about Monsterland. Within this exciting saga are underlying themes about learning to deal with denial, grief, depression, and letting go. Geez…It’s like this story was talking directly to me since I’ve shared the same emotional journey as Charlie.

Although it does deal with the emotional themes I’ve described, they are all subtle enough not to distract and are instead wrapped carefully in this beautifully written adventurous Halloween tale. I will never forget this book and really recommend you give it a read as well. Hope you enjoy it!

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