Marissa Miller's Reviews > The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
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Apr 16, 12

bookshelves: literature-for-adolescents
Read in April, 2012

Who is the monster in Rick Yancey's ? At first, we are led to believe that the monster is the Doctor, Will Henry's primary caretaker and "mad scientist", who neglects Will Henry due to his own scientific obsessions. Then we are lead to believe that the true monster is John Kearns, the "monster hunter" who turns out to be Jack the Ripper. And, of course, the Anthropophagus , whose flesh eating cannibalism ravages the families of New Jerusalem. Which is the worst "monster"? Yancey answer is deeply rooted in human morality. For example, the Doctor's morality is based on science and a life without hope. Kearns operates from a different moral philosophy: the morality of the moment. And the Anthropophagus are survival based; the size of their brains limit any capacity of human morality. These differences and fluctuations in morality lend to classroom discussion about morality -- human or otherwise. I think this is where we find God in Yancey's novel; which of these characters demonstrates Christ? What are some implications of a character's morality? What does justice look like? Yancey's integration of scientific theories of Darwin, Freud, and the like also add to this conversation of morality.

On another note, Yancey does an excellent job developing his characters. I started out with a strong dislike toward Doctor, but ended up admiring his compassion and dignity. The Doctor's duality is also reflected into Will Henry, whose naivety turns to heroism despite his being only 12. Yet, despite his acts of heroism, the reader wonders whether or not Will Henry will grow into the Doctor -- an aloof and confessedly loveless man.
Perhaps the most controversial element to Yancey's writing is his element of violence. There were some moments where I was nauseated from Yancey's writing -- particularly the section about the worms spilling out of Will Henry's father's boils. Yet, this element is essential for Yancey's development. Without violence or the grotesque, Yancey's novel would be lackluster. All the subsequent literary elements would hold little impact. Not only violence an element of the genre, it also enhances Yancey's theme of morality.

One cannot ignore Yancey's expert style and diction. Yancey is writing out of three genres: mystery, horror, and historical. He fuses these three styles in his novel, the result being vivid imagery and commentary. Yancey's writing parallels several of the classics, most notably Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and the like. There is a circulating belief that the classics are of little use in educating adolescent readers. Clearly not in this circumstance! I would not call Yancey's style contemporary, which is what I am used to reading, yet I still was entertained from start to finish. Yancey is reintroducing the classics back into contemporary literature -- an effort that should be applauded.

Overall, I found this novel to be quite innovative. I will definitely use this novel in the future.
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