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The Monster Variations

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  148 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Someone is killing boys in a small town. The weapon is a truck and the only protection is a curfew enacted to keep kids off the streets. But it's summer, and that alone is worth the risk for James, Willie, and Reggie.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Ember (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 617)
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Karen Keyte
Whoever wrote the synopsis that appears on the jacket flap of this book should be ashamed of him or herself. By making it appear as if The Monster Variations is a horror thriller, the unknown blurbster has done both the potential reader and the book's brilliant author, Daniel Kraus, a great disservice. The Monster Variations is a visceral tale of twelve-year-old boys on the cusp of manhood. The story is riveting, the imagery remarkable ("his heart scraped itself across the sharp blades of his ri ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Breia "The Brain" Brickey for

The story begins in the present with James, who on his way out of town runs into Reggie. The story then switches to the year when they were twelve.

Most of what you read will be from this year, when one of their friends is hit by someone in a silver truck, causing him to lose his arm. About two months later, another boy is hit and killed by what everyone suspects is the same truck. This leads the parents and the town to enact a curfew.

May 22, 2011 Stephen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I probably would have enjoyed this more had I read it before reading Rotters. Maybe it's not fair for me to compare the two (since they're totally different books), but this one was kind of a letdown. It was very well-written, and it held my interest through to the end, but I just didn't enjoy as much as some of the folks who've reviewed it before me. In fact, I'm even willing to go so far as to say that I don't think I got my money's worth. And I paid less than $5 for my copy.

I must agree with
Mar 06, 2012 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, ya
Let's be totally fair here: I've never been a twelve-year-old boy. I know, it's a sad fact that means I'm missing out on some experiences, but I chose the other route, the one that involved experiencing a year as a twelve-year-old girl (and by "chose" I mean "lacked the Y chromosome"). I suspect my lack of time as a boy means I'm not the target audience for this book, although in spite of the marketing, I'm not sure middle-grade kids are, either. It read to me like a nostalgia book, the sort of ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent coming of age novel, that follows three 12-year-old boys, best friends, during one eventful summer. The three come from different backgrounds: James is an overachiever, with parents constantly pushing him to succeed, to keep his eye "on the donut, not the hole." Reggie is the largest and the least book-smart of the three, the son of a single mother who works as a waitress in a diner and doesn't give him much attention. And Willie, the smallest and clumsiest, has just lost his left arm ...more
I'd expected this to be a much more supernatural scary sort of story--more in the Christine vein. But it's not--it's a town terrified after two boys get hit by what might be the same car, one boy killed and the other losing his arm. It's boys sneaking out after the town-enacted curfew to steal the remains of a monster that another boy has found. It's 12-year-old boys having the kind of mundane adventures that 12-year-old boys have.

I've said before that Kraus reminds me of Stephen King, and as mu
Jenna Amador
Jan 15, 2016 Jenna Amador rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

If your a person that likes to read books about mystery then i think this book is ment for you! The genre of this book is mystery, there's so many dramatic plots. It also wants you to read it more because every time when there's a mystery it's so exciting. In my opinion this book was very good and interesting because most of the books talke about more then one person and this book focused on three people. That's what i like because when most books focus on more then one person it gets confusin
Yessenia Damian
Sep 29, 2015 Yessenia Damian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are the type of person that likes to read about mystery books you should read this book. For being a mystery genre it keeps you wanting to read the book because there is many dramatic events, deaths, and plot twist.In my opinion it was a very good book, i liked that they just didnt just focused on one character like in most of the books, instead they just talked about the 3 main characters and they gave equal attention too them (Willie, Reggie, and James). I also liked that the book in ma ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Kathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disturbing. I was actually torn while reading this book. I loved the parts when the 3 friends (12 year old boys) got together during the summer. The next minute I would be horrified that I was reading this book. There was a lot of language, psycho thoughts about murder & such, and strange feelings that would pop up. I do not think this is a book for children or teens. I looked for a redeeming factor - something good to take from it all, but all I could find is that some good rubbed off from ...more
Cassie (Happy Book Lovers)
You can read my full review on my blog:


Going into this book, I was pretty excited because it sounded like a fast-paced murder mystery. Someone is running down boys in town in a truck. Willie, one of our main characters, ends up with only one arm, and another boy ends up dead. However, I was expecting there to be more that happened in the beginning. The description says tha
Robert Kristoffersen
I didn't know what to expect from The Monster Variations at first glance. I picked it up after reading a review posted on the A.V. Club; I mean, if someone was throwing the name of Stephen King around, and you were a fan, you would too. What I got was so much more, and unique, and much to admire, that it will be some time before I forget this book.

This tale involves three junior high friends, James, Reggie, and Willie, and the summer that changed their lives forever. The story is recounted as Ja
"Willie Van Allen's arm was gone. The truck that hit him escaped, silver and purring, and it swept up a gust that was almost refreshing. In the hazy afterburn he lay, his face blank as sand, white as foam.

Willie's arm, or what was left of it, was tamped into the dirt, now part of the old tar road along with stones and bugs and beer cans and scrub-grass. There was blood, but it had mixed with dirt, become mud. There was bone, too, but the bone dove beneath the mud like a tree root."

This book foll
I really liked this book, although it was very complex. Made me think a lot. It's a combination mystery and coming-of-age story about boys living in a small town. It starts with one of the characters leaving for college, meeting a childhood friend who is pumping gas outside of town, and then launches into the story of their summer when they were 12.
The title refers to all the different types of monsters people have in their lives - family members, unseen monsters, internal monsters, fake monster
Ok, so first of all, this book sells itself the completely wrong way. I understand that there are some potentially interesting angles that can create buzz amongst readers if you take the ‘boys are mysteriously’ dying pieces and blow them out of proportion. Given the back cover, I was truly expecting I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Scream, but what I got was more like Hearts In Atlantis, and even that movie was scarier than this book. For those of you looking for Goosebumps, this is not your ...more
Dec 14, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen, read-2009
I really appreciate stories that are about a turning point in somebody's life -- that "one summer" that changes everything. I would definitely say that this book falls into that category. The book starts off in the present, and the reader is given a slight glimpse into the lives of a couple of the main characters. You are then taken back to learn about the summer that brought them there. Some of the situations were never fully explained, as if the author had a genuinely creepy idea and then forg ...more
Having read Rotters first, I was expecting much more from this book. It started out nice and creepy, but then just kind of withered from there. I found Mel Herman one of the most intriguing characters. He had a more interesting story line than your three main characters, and I just wanted more of his perspective than it had. I liked it in the end - it picked back up some, but I still thought about abandoning the book a couple times.
Sep 28, 2009 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, realistic-fiction
A pretty solid, creepy coming-of-age story that manages to combine the symptoms of growing up with fear in a pretty effective way. The jacket description isn't entirely accurate: it describes the story as someone being out to kill young boys, but really there is a series of mysterious accidents in a small town that induces a curfew and puts everyone on edge. Within that dread, three twelve-year-old friends, one of which lost his arm to this series of accidents, grow apart, decide to do daring th ...more
Mel Raschke
Interesting YA literature book. Don't let the cover turn you off. This book is much more. No spoilers here...but James Wahl is desperately eager to leave his hometown, his parents, and his childhood behind. Making his getaway to college, James stops at a hole-in-the-wall town for gas and comes face to face with the past he can't outrun. Reggie Fielder was once one of James' best friends and during their twelfth summer they shared adventures and horrors that profoundly changed the young men they ...more
Katy Jane
1. I read Rotters by this author so I picked this up thinking it would be equally eerie, but it wasn't. It was more a coming of age story.
2. I didn't dislike the book in any way. I gave it a three because it took me forever to read because it isn't a book that screams for attention. It's complex so I really had to take time to digest each chapter and think about the metaphors the author was writing about.
3. I loved how each chapter name was a mnemonic device that Willie used.
4. Willie's dad's
Erin Sterling
I was hoping this book would be horror, but it wasn't really, despite what the cover looks like. Kind of disturbing and sad? Yes. The book is about the summer of 3 12-year-old boys, a monster who turns out not to be a monster, death, and a terrifying kid who turns out not to be terrifying. There's sort of a mystery in there as well--a kid gets run over by a truck and killed and within the same week a kid loses his arm from being run over by the truck. The 3 boys try to figure out the mystery as ...more
Fernando Dosamantes
I loved the book. I love mysteries because the story itself makes me want to read more and more. I liked the mystery in the book. The book shocked me when the mystery was revealed. I would recommend it to any one who likes mysteries and likes the feeling when books make you want to read more. I would give this book 4 stars because its kinda scary to think that there is a person that kills people around town. But the most feared thing in this book is where will the killer strike next.
Loretta Gaffney
Jul 12, 2015 Loretta Gaffney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-teach
This is my favorite of Kraus's three totally eff-ed up YA books. I thought Rotters was scary brilliant, and Scowler was...scary. This one is more "realistic" and straight up coming of age, but the darkness of boyhood, junk yards, alcoholic dads, bullies (and their art) and childhood violence are all there. Don't worry if you were traumatized by Scowler...this is Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms compared to that one. Just enough glimmers of hope to keep you from committing suicide.
More depressing than I usually can put up with this book was interesting and held my attention. This is a mystery about what happens to a group of friends during their childhood. It's a coming of age story about a group of boys in a small town.

It reminded me a little bit of Steven King's, "IT" but not terrifying and not supernatual at all. But it had that feeling of friendship, sadness, belonging/not belonging, etc.
Apr 12, 2013 Spock rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
sulla falsa riga dei vari "Stand by me", "una estate incantata", "quell'estate di ... , "l'estate della paura", etc, arriva questo nuovo racconto ambientato in un posto imprecisato della provincia americana con protagonisti ragazzini in et prepuberale.
Pur con una trama strabattuta, il libro si fa leggere volentieri ed offre un colpo di scena imprevedibile che gli fa meritare una sufficienza pi che abbondante.
Oct 26, 2009 Nance rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The organization of the book was good. I liked the circular nature. I did not feel like the author did a good enough job making the characters relatable. This may be because I am a woman and can’t get into the minds of 12 year old boys. The dialogue in the beginning was a little stilted but eventually, I was able to get into it.
Alison Coffey
Feb 15, 2010 Alison Coffey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author was in many of my filmmaking classes in college. I always liked his work, although we had differing sensibilities.

But this book, this book is really great! Rich and truthful, painful and poignant, page turning and yet deep. Good job, Dan!
Nov 19, 2010 Angie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t think of another book I’ve read where I liked it so much and disliked it so much at the very same time. The story was demented in parts yet the writing was brilliant. Very unique.
Jul 25, 2011 Tori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-fiction, realistic
Well written story of three boys and the summer of their 12th year. The characters are well drawn and the book is reminiscent of movies like Stand By Me and the current, Super 8.
Kristy McRae
Aug 17, 2013 Kristy McRae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The jacket copy was misleading...however, I ended up really liking this coming-of-age story about three teenage boys, during an exciting and scary summer of their lives.
Apr 02, 2013 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. Really makes you ask the question, which is more of a monster, the parent, the child, or the unknown stranger that harms others.
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DANIEL KRAUS has landed on Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 Books of 2015 (The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch), won two Odyssey Awards (for both Rotters and Scowler), and has been a Library Guild selection, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Parent’s Choice Gold Award winner, Bram Stoker finalist, and more.

He co-authored Trollhunters with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and his work has been transl
More about Daniel Kraus...

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