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The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  315 ratings  ·  90 reviews
From master storyteller David Almond comes a gripping, exquisitely written novel about a hidden-away child who emerges into a broken world.

Billy Dean is a secret child. He has a beautiful young mother and a father who arrives at night carrying the scents of candles and incense and cigarettes. Birds fly to his window. Mice run out from his walls. His world is a carpet, a be
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Candlewick Press (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,458)
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karen
another bleak offering from candlewick, god bless 'em.

to begin - this book is written in the voice of billy dean, a boy who spent the first thirteen years of his life secreted away in the back room of an apartment in a war-torn world, with only three people knowing of his existence: his mother, his priest father, and the woman who delivered him into the world on the very day their town of blinkbonny was bombed. his father, when he bothers to stop by for a visit and a tumble with billy's mother,
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Carmen
Apr 16, 2014 Carmen rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: dnf
Did not finish.

Reading this book is making me stupider and giving me a headache. I can't stand the spelling.

I know it's deliberate, but that doesn't make it any better.
Kat
Hmm, this book was a bit of a puzzle for me. I feel like I was supposed to glean some deeper meaning and understanding of...something. But I didn't. That may be because I am quite a simple soul and anything beyond the actual story is lost on me. I don't like dissecting stories, it kind of sucks all the fun out of reading.

At face value this was OK. I almost didn't read it when I found out that Almond wrote the story in a completely phonetic style, which made the whole reading experience quite pai
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Jo Bennie
Billy Dean is born in the town of Blinkbonny, just outside Alnwick, the day the bombs explode razing his town and plunging his country into war. He grows up knowing only the walls of the tiny flat where he and his mother live, and the face of his father who is an occasional visitor, preaching hellfire and teaching his son Bible stories. At the age of 13 his mother takes him out into the post apocalyptic landscape of rubble for the first time and he becomes a phenomenon, can speak to the dead and ...more
Colin
I love David Almond's Young Adult novels, so I was keen to see what he turned out for adults, and whether it would have the same hallmarks or go off in completely new territory. Having read the book, I'm not sure it is a book especially for adults at all. It still feels YA to me because I think teens can related to the majority of the story, but like the best YA books, there are depths here that only mature readers will notice.

And yes, it does have the David Almond hallmarks. It's never pinned d
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Jane
I was intrigued as soon as I read about The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean.

A crossover book, marketed to both children and adults. A book written by an award-winning author of books for children. I’d read a couple of them and I’d liked the mixture of reality and magic, earthiness and airiness. This new book had the potential to be something rather special.

I was a little worried though when my copy arrived and I discovered that the spelling was phonetic and that the use of language was collo
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Lacey Louwagie
I don't really want to start this review by talking about the phonetic spelling, but it so colors the whole reading experience that I feel I really must get it out of the way.

The whole book is written phonetically, and inconsistently phonetically (sometimes one is spelled "won," sometimes 1"). That inconsistency didn't actually bother me because I think when someone is unsure how to spell something, they don't necessarily spell it wrong the same way every time. And while the phonetic spelling is
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Benjamin
The day Billy Dean wos born wos a day of great destrucshion for his town of Blinkbonny. Kept in secrit and seeing only his butyful yung mam Veronica and, on his rare visits, his daddy, Billy nos little of the world he has been born into. At the age of thirteen when his daddy disapperes it seems for good his mam introduses Billy to the world, and the devastashion that has remained almost unchanged since his birth. While virchewally uneducated and ignorant of the world at large there are thoos who ...more
Sara
Review written for WASHYARG (Washington Young Adult Review Group).

Billy Dean has lived in the same room since he was born. His only view of his little town of Blinkbonny is a tiny square of sky through the skylight. He only ever sees his mother and father, and the only animals he’s seen in person are birds and mice. Because of his limited view of the world, Billy’s upbringing is strange, to say the least. It is only when Billy turns 13 and his mother decides that it is time for him to see the wo
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Karen
Well, this got my attention. David Almond, why did you write your entire book this way?

"Ther was a shaft of lite farlin on him ther was a million bits of dust dansin spinnin glitterin in that shaft of lite. He lit a blak sigaret & the smoak swirld rownd him with the dust."

It seems like it has annoyed most readers, and it certainly makes the book challenging to read (it probably took me twice as long as a normal book of its length). But I think it was worth it! The language and phonetic spell
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Victoria
Though this book sounds promising, its execution prevents it from being an enjoyable read. It’s a struggle to get through this book. It is written semi-phonetically, but inconsistently (“one” is written as both “1” and “won”) and this choice is so alienating. Here’s an example of one of the sentences: “Mebbe non of us think that standin & warkin on the world is enuf for us.” The beginning relays that this is a retrospective story, and since there are so many other literate people in Billy’s ...more
Blake Fraina
The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is presented as the journal of a boy who’s been shut away from a post-apocalyptic world his entire life. He lives blissfully unaware of the wholesale destruction and unending war that exists just beyond the threshold of the one little room he’s been forced to occupy since his birth on the first night of the disaster. The first thing that’s immediately obvious is that he’s also never been taught to read or write properly.

I’ll admit that when I started readi
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Jessica
I'm not sure there are words or stars to really explain this one to you. I found it somewhat painful to read for at least half, and then somehow fell into a rhythm with it - I think if you have the option you should probably go audio with this one. It's meant to be an oral story in my opinion. This is the story of Billy Dean, a child who is secreted away by his priest father and hairdresser mother after his hidden birth on the day that the town of Blinkbonny is blasted to smithereens. The story ...more
Mark
While I like the character of Billy Dean, I had some major issues with this book.

First, I'm not so sure the use of the phonetic language was successful. It would have been nice to see it at first, because we know from actual events that when individuals don't develop socially, they tend to struggle with language. But, Billy Dean never increases in his ability to write. Despite spending so much time learning letters, having people show him how to spell, and at the end asking Elizabeth for help on
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Macallan
At times brilliant and devastating, other times languid to the point of 'where is this going?!', The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is a dark, messy book about violence, miracles, love, and death. Almond is great at creating setting; here the locale is Blinkbonny, the ruins of a small town that has been bombed to near human extinction. You can hear the footsteps on the rubble, smell the rot of human flesh, and hear the murmurs of survivors' desperate voices. They wash through the ears of Bi ...more
Hilary
Billy Dean was born on the day the world ended. He is a secret child, hidden away from the world by his beautiful young mother and mysterious father, who visits from time to time. Raised in isolation, Billy Dean emerges to a world that is broken, violent, and bleak.

Billy sees the best in all he views and meets. He becomes The Angel Child, who can heal the living, contact the dead, and possibly heal the world. Billy pours himself into helping all who ask for his aid, but eventually is overwhelme
...more
Chelsea
It's a fascinating book, stylistically and thematically. I expected to have more trouble with Billy's writing style, but I actually found myself completely sucked in, and I liked how the spelling helped me hear how the characters speak. I was completely engaged in Billy's story, and compelled to keep reading to find out more about Billy, what made him special, the world he lived in, and how this was all going to end. At the same time, as I think back on the book post-read, I'm not sure about the ...more
Courtney
Billy Dean is a special child. He is born on a day of death and destruction, when bombs nearly destroyed the small town of Blinkbonny. He is the only life that came out of that dreadful day. Billy's world consists entirely of a small attic room with locks on the door. His mother, a beautiful hairdresser, is his only contact with the outside world. She teaches him nearly everything he knows. Billy's father only comes around from time to time, smelling of incense, candles and cigarettes. When his ...more
Corinne Hinton
This was a tale I was told by the author himself (on CD) as I drove to and from work, so I had no problem with the phonetic spelling and could not help but be drawn into the world of Billy Dean.
Would I have stuck with the book to the end, or taken a much longer time to finish it ? Maybe, but I expect it would have required a lot more concentration and taken much longer.

This was also my first experience of a David Almond novel, so with no preconceptions, my first great surprise was to hear his a
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Andrew
This book is a funny beast. I picked it at random at the local library, knowing nothing about it and not having even read the cover blurb.
The first thing is that the book is written phonetically, which makes it awful to read, and it really adds nothing to the story.
Once the story starts, at first it seems rather like a low grade version of Room (by Emma Donoghue). I was not convinced with how well Billy acclimatised to the outside world so quickly.
Which brings us onto the next bit. Suddenly,
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Emeraldia Ayakashi
David almond is a master storyteller, and tales are beautiful writen .
It's gripping, truly original, mysterious and affecting . This book is like some beautiful people who intrig you, who you will treads with delicate certainty .
Gabriella Cisneros
Genre: Dystopian, Magic Realism/Paranormal

Notes: English (UK), weird spellings (phonetically), interesting style, takes awhile to understand, mystery, short story-ish, first person POV, unusual, intriguing, emotional, good characterization, hmmm…

Rating: 9/10

My Deduction: Yes. You can do it! Don’t give up!

Why: I skimmed over a few of the reviews on GoodReads just after reading the first paragraph of this book. Why? Well, YOU try reading the first few sentences and tell my why you wouldn’t be curi
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Thomas Padley
Being a relief librarian, there are 16 libraries in my area and I am asked to work all over the place, but there is one where I'm never asked to work and whenever I do I always read this book in my breaks.... Today was the day I finished it (5 months later) the spelling was horrible and made for such a slow and draining read, I felt dumber as I went along actually the only reason i kept going was just for the little ritual I had going at work, I hear the audio is fantastic so I may stick it on m ...more
Karen
Haunting and lyrical, the cover is one of my favorites and the audiobook is beautifully narrated by a master storyteller (the author himself), but I never connected with this story about religious subversion, even though it has stronger appeal for adults than teens. For thoughtful readers of magic realism and literary fiction who enjoyed the darkest aspects of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, this is a possible listen-alike that includes murky, nightmarish childhood memories, revealed in a mesm ...more
Krista Ivy
This book is hard to read at first. It is worth the effort as is all good literature. I do believe that this book should become a piece of great and classic literature when time has gone by. It tells a tale of a child who grows before the reader. His mind develops in a fascinating manner. He is a child of nature who understands light and dark so perfectly because he only knows what it is. He does not know everything, but he is capable of almost anything. His mind and body are taken over by and p ...more
Emily
Mar 12, 2014 Emily added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Reluctantly DNFing this one. I just can't take the phonetic spelling, since it forces me to read so much more slowly than I normally do, and some words have to be puzzled over to decode. Here's a sample: "I wos a secrit shy and tungtied emptyheded thing. I wos tort to read and rite and spell by my tenda littl muther & by Mr McCaufrey the butcha & by Missus Malone and her gosts. So I am not cleva, so please forgiv my folts and my mistayks. I am the won that glares into your harts & th ...more
Audrey
This is one of those books that polarizes readers -- I think you either love it or you hate it. A big part of that, of course, is the style -- I grew used to the phonetic spelling and idiosyncracies of the text pretty early, so it didn't really bother me much past the initial few pages. There's a beautiful story here, full of darkness and light and all the dichotomy of life and death, and the deeper resonances in it only serve to enhance the telling of this simple tale. Despite the simplicity of ...more
Susan
An astonishing book. The narrator, who has been locked away in a room for the first 12 years of his life and remains largely uneducated, writes using invented spelling, which helps set the story within a place of isolation and loneliness. In fact the outer world has been bombed and, for his own protection, the boy -- a "monster" born as the bombs fell -- has been hidden away by his mother and his largely absent preacher. As a result Billy sees and experiences everything with a naivety, a confusi ...more
Julie
The phonetic writing was awkward and made for slow, but dreamy reading. It bothered me that at the very end, this spelling was dropped as it should have stayed consistent. I kept waiting for an amazing revelatory moment, but it turned out to be just a nice little story. I didn't care for the ending as it was too happily ever after for what never fleshed out into a true fairy tale. I liked the style and tone, and the story was rich with symbolism, but I'm not sure I ever felt the magic of it all.
Carly
I've been an absolutely huge fan of David Almond since my second year of university, when I read Skellig as part of my Writing for Young People module. I fell in love with his lyrical style of writing and intense attention to detail that really helps to bring his remarkable characters to life. I adored Finding Mina as well and I was so, so excited about The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean.

Honestly, I pined for this book for months. I'm not even joking. I heard him read an extract at the Puff
...more
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David Almond is a British children's writer who has penned several novels, each one to critical acclaim. He was born and raised in Felling and Newcastle in post-industrial North East England and educated at the University of East Anglia. When he was young, he found his love of writing when some short stories of his were published in a local magazine. He started out as an author of adult fiction be ...more
More about David Almond...
Skellig (Skellig, #1) My Name is Mina (Skellig, #0.5) Kit's Wilderness Click: One Novel, Ten Authors Heaven Eyes

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