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Destroy All Monsters

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A crucial, genre-bending tale, equal parts Ned Vizzini and Patrick Ness, about the life-saving power of friendship.

Solomon and Ash both experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve.

Ash lost all memory of that event when she fell from Solomon’s treehouse. Since then, Solomon has retreated further and further into a world he seems to have created in his own mind. One that insulates him from reality, but crawls with foes and monsters . . . in both animal and human form.

As Solomon slips further into the place he calls Darkside, Ash realizes her only chance to free her best friend from his pain is to recall exactly what happened that day in his backyard and face the truth—together.

Fearless and profound, Sam J. Miller’s follow up to his award-winning debut novel, The Art of Starving, spins an intimate and impactful tale that will linger with readers.

400 pages, ebook

First published July 2, 2019

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About the author

Sam J. Miller

84 books755 followers
Sam J. Miller is the last in a long line of butchers, and the Nebula-Award-winning author of THE ART OF STARVING, one of NPR's Best Books of the Year. His second novel, BLACKFISH CITY was a "Must Read" according to Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Magazine, and one of the best books of 2018 according to the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and more. He got gay-married in a guerrilla wedding in the shadow of a tyrannosaurus skeleton. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 111 reviews
July 5, 2019
Q: “Maybe we broke the universe.” (c)
Q: Some of us are monsters. (c)
Q: I wanted to save myself, and Ash, and my whole city full of magnificent monsters and magic that they wanted to destroy. (c)
Q: “Temperature’s dropping tonight, beloveds,” she said. “Better find a good book or a warm body to curl up with by the fire.” (c)

So, kids deep in fantasy are marked in here as losing their minds. What's this world coming to? Medicating everyone from the crib? What Sol needed, was some writing therapy - after writing some bad (or even good) books about his ideas, he would have been back to his boring (or not) self.

Anyway, a quirky book. Even though nothing really added up. But then, it read nicely and mentioned a lot of interesting stuff. Like, why one shouldn't medicate kids. Or be anti-Semitic. Or molest kids. Or have no opinion on things. Or forget stuff. So, it is
Q: “Welcome to this weird, beautiful day,” (c)

Sometimes Solomon lived in a fantasy world full of horrors, and other times I could see that he understood our world way better than I ever would. (c)
He didn’t answer me right away, and I knew he was weighing his words. Wondering how much to tell me. The stories he told—they were part of why everyone was afraid of him. Crazy stuff he didn’t seem to understand was crazy. A city full of monsters and magic and vicious police officers.
And dinosaurs. (c)
Never in my life had it been so painful, to wake up into cold, drab miserable reality. And it never was again—until that moment, when I looked around and saw that I stood in a world with no magic, no dinosaurs, no monsters. How could humans survive in a world so ugly?
Pterodactyls squawked in the dockside air overhead. The smell of the riversea was strong. I breathed it in deep. I’d never have imagined I could be so happy to smell kraken ink.
Ash asked, “What happened to you?”
“I went somewhere,” I said. “Somewhere horrible. What about you?”
The world was very beautiful, and very ugly. (c)
Every awful thing was asleep. The night protected us, a deep black star-studded security blanket. (c)
I wondered: What was it like, losing your mind? Being unable to tell the difference between dreams and the waking world? Not knowing what’s real and what’s not? (c)
Reality is messy. Reality is horrible. My camera allows me to make something out of that chaos. Something beautiful. (c)
“You know you make people uncomfortable,” he said. “When you don’t wear one. Like you think you’re better than us.”
“That sounds like an ‘other people’ problem, rather than a ‘me’ problem,” I said. (c)
Another city. The one that Solomon saw, where monsters walk harmlessly through the streets beside hordes of delicious humans.
The city where I, supposedly, was a princess. (c)
...you can’t fight a monster you can’t see. (c)
“People Who Failed Solomon. We could form a club.” (c)
I had been plunging from dream to dream to memory to fantasy, until I couldn’t tell where one ended and the next began, or where the real world was in relation to all that. (c)
Sheffield laughed. “A bit of an idiot, isn’t he?”
“I have no idea.”
“He’s a bit of an idiot.”
“This is a great conversation.”
Sheffield laughed again. (c)
“Like you.”
“Would that be Princess Me, or Boring Me?”
“Both. There’s really only one. ...”( c)
Humans are so strange like that. When we don’t want to see something, we just don’t see it. Or we tell ourselves it’s something else. That’s pretty much an essential part of how we survive in this world. (c)
Probably train conductors saw a lot of weird shit out their windows. (c)

Solomon's fantasies are awesome-ish, in a naïve, kiddy way:
Solomon’s imagination is very vivid, and when he plays his weird little game—Darkside City, he calls it... (c)
Vision magic: a rare and valuable power. To be able to see with perfect clarity what would happen in the future, or had happened in the past, or was happening far away in that very moment—people had built huge and powerful empires on the strength of a gift like that. (c)
My allosaurus flexed her nostrils, which is how she smiles. (c)
So I did what I tend to do in stressful situations: I took a picture. (c)
It’s why they call us monsters, because we’re not afraid of the creatures that walk the streets of the city. (c)
“We run your name, we gonna find anything? Prior offenses, associations with illegal organizations?”
“I don’t have any current offenses,” I said. “Let alone priors. I’m not doing anything wrong. I just don’t think it’s right for you to harass helpless old women.”
“This punk,” lady cop said, and came at me fast. (c)
He strolled into the street with a smile on his face and his hands full of lightning. A single bolt spun in a beautiful sphere, dozens of strands of it intricately coiled together. It was beautiful—almost as perfect as his face, which looked like summer even though summer was gone. (c)
Pretty people can’t be relied upon. They have too many options. (c)
We hurried home through streets that stunk of cinnamon. (c)
There is magic in me. I feel it all through my arms and legs, shivering in my stomach, burning in my brain. (c)
For four years we explored the catacombs and turrets and libraries and kitchens and pterodactyl rookeries of the imperial residence. (c)
“I call them trained pennies,” he said, holding one out to me. “Get it? Trained? Like they got run over by a train?” ...
“It’s a kind of currency,” he said. “Certain transactions, you can’t use regular money for.” (c)
You see my dilemma, with shit like this. I had a lot of questions, but ask too many of them and he might pick up on my skepticism, or think that I was trying to diagnose him. Which, yeah, I kind of was. “What kind of transactions?”
“Lots of groups don’t trust the queen or her government, or they don’t want to pay taxes that support the police. They have their own economies.”
The queen. Her government. Secret economies.
Paranoid. Tinfoil hat kind of stuff. (c) Actually, someone needed to talk to that kid and not confirm him in his sinking into the made up world. Lots of people respond well to that (know that from practice, though not mine!).
She still wears all black, even though her wife died six years ago. She rides a white tyrannosaur—the only tyrannosaur allowed in the city. It’s a nod to the othersiders—the people with powers—that she cares for them, too.” (c)
I was like a messenger who didn’t care whether she was carrying narcotic spiderwebbing, illegal sky whale oil, or last quarter’s financial reports—long as she got paid when she got where she was going. (c)
The night of the queen’s speech, a sky whale and an air kraken were fighting in the air around the bridge. A bad omen—certainly for the kraken, who put up a good fight but was clearly doomed from the start. (c)

How does one get to share a friend's craziness?
Solomon looked out across the river. His eyes widened. I turned, and gasped at what I saw. Flying through the air, two animals: as big and long as trains, glinting in the sunset.
“A water dragon and a fire dragon,” Solomon whispered. “Dragons wander—they never nest or build a home. And when two meet, they have a dance they do. A different one for every two elements. It’s a super-rare sight.”
Connor looked, but then looked down at his feet again. The way you do, when someone describes something that must be a figment of their imagination. Or their madness.
But I could see them. Serpentine creatures, Eastern-style dragons instead of the winged long-neck lizards of Western folklore. They coiled and looped together in an intricate, gorgeous dance. So complex I worried they’d get knotted together. The weird world Solomon lived in was so much better than this one. I almost envied him, that he got to live there all the time. (c)

Some interesting ideas about growing up:
... he hadn’t always been like that. He’d been a kid once, and full of magic like all children are. Somewhere along the line he got broken, twisted. And started hurting people. (c)

Reverse sexism:
And here’s something I learned from her cop shows: wherever there’s a woman in jail for a violent crime against a spouse or partner, there’s a man who did some especially heinous things to push her to that point.
What did you do, Mr. Barrett? (c) Of course, there are criminal women, just like men. I do get this this protagonist was bad but one shouldn't really generalize like that.
Confidence, arrogance, toxic masculinity (c) Come onnnn! Can we do without all the buzzy-buzz-words? There's no such thing as a toxic masculinity. Just like there's no toxic femininity. I'm taking off another star for this.

Finally! I thought they never would get to this point:
What if Solomon’s monsters weren’t in his head—hadn’t infected me as I followed him down the rabbit hole of his trauma? What if what I was seeing was just a different reality, no more or less valid than the one without monsters?
Children know that monsters are real. We forget, when we get older. When we decide we are grown-ups. We block out the monsters. Turn our backs on all that magic.
But maybe not everyone does. Maybe some people never leave that reality behind.
Maybe it wasn’t trauma that made Solomon see the world as full of magic and monsters. Maybe it wasn’t his sickness. Maybe that’s just who he was. Special. Gifted.
Artists, writers, musicians—photographers—they all had to be able to tap into something (the other side) that wasn’t there, some other better world, and grab hold of things, and bring them back so the rest of the world can feel the magic too. Diane Arbus did it, at great personal cost. The world was better for having her photographs in it, even if that struggle ended up killing her.
With a shiver, I realized: It takes a very special kind of crazy to change the world. (c)

Yeah, the little moments that make us ourselves. Transfiguration of the type that McGonnagal would've envied:
I shut my eyes, breathed in and out, memorized every sense impression. The raw, wet muck smell of the river. The cold wind. The sniffling of the boys beside me. It was one of those moments I’d want to be able to remember, years and years later. The little instants that turn us into who we are. (c)
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,366 followers
March 30, 2019
True rating: 3.5 stars.

I chose to read this book because of the mention of a Patrick Ness-like style, and this is definitely true. It starts out confusing as heck, but in a good way. The kind of confusing that captivates you, and pulls you in fully with the promise of a very odd, gritty, mysterious book.

Told in dual POV, we go through this story with two very different angles. One is Ash who is your typical teenage girl who doesn't completely fit in, but who's also not a complete loner. Then there's Solomon who takes us on a wild ride filled with dinosaurs, monsters, and magic. Which is real, though? Is Solomon just making this all up, or is it Ash who is unable to see the monsters? I found this aspect really enjoyable and fun to try and figure out. I did find that my interest in the bizarre world fizzled out after a while, though. As the story advances and the the mystery unravels, I found myself wanting to skip over Solomon's POV to get to the big reveal.

It didn't help that the POV switched so often that it was hard to keep track of the going ons of the Darkside and its characters. I felt like I never had time to really immerse myself into that fantasy land before we were snatched away into the real-world of Ash's POV again. This made the story feel very jittery, and I found myself mostly paying attention to Ash's storyline, and getting bored when we were thrown into what had started as an intriguing, dark otherworld.

There were also parts of the story that made me uncomfortable. Ash has a "friend with benefits" that, while I know does happen at 16, felt out of place for me. No parent batted an eye at a 16yo spending so much time alone in a boy's room for most of the night/evening. I'm not a prude, but it just felt really awkward and unnecessary for the story.

With all that said, the overall message in this novel is an important one. I appreciated that it had real substance, while keeping its air of mystery and magic throughout. It's an overall dark, gritty story that can never be told enough.
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 60 books7,624 followers
January 7, 2019
Laini Taylor meets John Green in this poignant young adult tale of parallel worlds and deep magic where trauma breaks but friendship heals. Miller offers no easy answers for fighting the all-too-real monsters in our lives but still allows space for hope, healing, and above all, bravery.
Profile Image for Kathy Shin.
151 reviews117 followers
July 6, 2019
So. I really, really like Sam Miller. The first reason being that he's one of those writers who takes outlandish ideas and doesn't hesitate--just dives headfirst into them. I mean, his novels so far include a cyberpunk rebellion story starring a woman who's an orcamancer, a villain origin story about a boy whose eating disorder gives him superpowers, and now a dual perspective story about a girl with magical camera powers and her best friend who lives in his imaginary world filled with monsters and dinosaurs. Even though they don't always work (ahem, foreshadowing), they're still memorable and push the boundaries of what speculative fiction can achieve. And I'll always love creators who take chances.

The second reason is that there's always a heavy thread of compassion running through his stories. You can tell he's writing them because he truly cares about people--the marginalized, the lost, the broken--and wants to shine a spotlight on their struggles.

Or maybe reading The Art of Starving flipped a switch in my brain and now every book of his I read feels like a heart-to-heart conversation. Either way, genuine goodness and imagination makes for a lethal combination.

Well, Destroy all Monsters has both of those, which is fantastic, but for me it severely falters in the storytelling department, ultimately making this a disappointment.

The main culprit behind the issues? Alternating PoVs.

We switch back and forth between Ash's chapter, which shows the MCs' lives as normal highschool students, with Solomon dealing with severe trauma, and Solomon's chapter, which takes place in an alternate fantasy world where Ash is a princess-in-hiding. The problem is that the blurb and the early part of the story has you thinking that Solomon's chapters are all occurring in his head. So I spent half of the book trying to figure out where the two PoVs line up, because surely some aspects of Ash's PoV should be seeping into Solomon's.

But they don't line up--at least, not until the end, and even then the connection is tenuous.

The characters in Solomon's PoV are the same people as the ones in Ash's PoV, but their personalities, actions, and motivations differ (well, only slightly with the personalities). So basically you're getting two different plots--starring two sets of characters--crammed into one 400-page book, and neither of them is developed enough to be engaging.

Also, friendship is a huge theme in the story but because of the alternating format, we don't spend enough time with either sets of Ash and Solomon to get a good feel of what their relationship is like.

But the reveal at the end regarding Solomon's world has to be the biggest letdown because it turns the narrative from a "Exploration of Mental Health via Fantasy" story to a "I'm Suffering from an Identity Crisis" story. It strips away the emotional impact that the previous chapters were building up to and I found the result messy and unsatisfying.

So yeah...Sorry, Sam.

I really dig Solomon's dinosaur mount, though.

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,056 reviews137 followers
December 18, 2019
A traumatic event happened when Ash and Solomon were twelve years old. Ash can’t remember and Solomon retreats into a fantastical world. Destroy All Monsters is a blend of a hard-hitting YA contemporary and fantasy. It’s similar to Shaun David Hutchinson or A.S. King where the speculative elements seem to be the way that characters cope with hard aspects of their lives.

I think that the “reveal” of what happened when they were twelve was pretty easy to predict. That part of the story didn’t offer many surprises. However, the way the story was told through Ash’s eyes in “the real world” and Solomon’s eyes in “Darkside” was pretty unique. It was interesting to try and figure out which parts of “Darkside” related to which things in “the real world.”

Sometimes Solomon’s sections could get a little convoluted. I’m also not entirely sure if the mental health representation was the best. I think that mostly things get called out or at least proven to be wrong by the end, but it just left me wanting a little bit more.

I think this book definitely won’t be for everyone. The story is told in an odd way and covers some really heavy topics. I’d suggest looking up trigger warnings in some other reviews if you feel so inclined. But it worked for me. I found it to be compelling from start to finish.
Profile Image for Teresa Faliq ☼.
74 reviews52 followers
January 11, 2020
this book is beautiful. it’s beautiful, heartbreaking, real, raw, amazing, eye opening, loving, heartfelt ... and just aH. i really loved it. most of the book left me confused, and there’s still a lot of questions unanswered now that the book is over. but it carries a meaning and a purpose which is why i love it.

i honestly believe that the storytelling and world description could be slightly better. but. i still think this book was incredible.

i also love how real the characters are, specifically Ash and Solomon. i fell in love with both of them immediately. i also really liked how strong their friendship was, and how much they loved each other, without having a romantic relationship. it was refreshing to see a strong, loving, friendship as the main part of the story, instead of a romance, which i feel is pretty rare in ya.

but yeah. i can completely understand why some people wouldn’t like this book very much, ‘cause it’s written in a mildly confusing way. some questions are left unanswered. but the deeper meaning behind it is what stood out to me the most. :)
Profile Image for Kelly.
616 reviews148 followers
June 17, 2020
Review originally published at Fantasy Literature.

It’s interesting reading Sam J. Miller’s Destroy All Monsters (2019) with Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet still fresh in my mind. Both novels deal with child abuse and the question of what a “monster” is. Clearly, these themes are out there in the zeitgeist, and they’re resonating with readers; both books have been named Locus finalists in the Young Adult category.

Destroy All Monsters alternates between two points of view: high school best friends Ash and Solomon. Ash is an aspiring photographer on the trail of a group that’s been committing hateful acts of vandalism around town. Solomon is struggling with a mental illness and sees the world through a fantastical lens; in his hallucinations (or visions), he rides a dinosaur, Ash is a refugee princess, and both are in danger because they are “othersiders” — people who have magic. Both teens have one big hole in their memory: a night when they were twelve years old and something terrible happened.

Solomon’s fantasy storyline runs parallel to Ash’s “real world” one, but this is confusing for much of the book. Sometimes the two narratives are not parallel enough; for example, Solomon’s stepbrother Connor is Ash’s sexy friend-with-benefits in her chapters and a little kid in Solomon’s. There turns out to be a reason for this, but it’s kind of an icky whiplash when you’re in the middle of it. Other times, they’re too synced up. Sometimes Solomon will have the same conversation, verbatim, that Ash just had, even though Solomon wasn’t there for the latter. This was distracting, because I started expecting a twist where it would turn out that either Ash or Solomon did not really exist and was a figment of the other’s imagination.

The ending is moving in terms of the interpersonal relationships, but left me dissatisfied in terms of the magical elements. I felt that it conflated the creative imagination with mental illness in a way that was kind of a disservice to both.

Destroy All Monsters is an ambitious, experimental book that aims high but, for me at least, doesn’t quite hit. It’s just too confusing for too long. It might be worth a shot if you’re interested in mental-illness themes, though, and I would also recommend Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, which similarly alternates between real-world and hallucinatory chapters.
Profile Image for Daniel.
693 reviews46 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
January 5, 2020
DNF @50% Very disappointed. The Art of Starving is a favorite, but this book doesn't work for me at all.

The dual POV unbalances the whole is it real or mental illness thing Miller pulled off beautifully in AoS. I don't give a shit about Ash. We don't really get to know Solomon, but I have no interest in seeing him tormented which is obviously what's coming.

Additionally, while characters with shared characteristics and shared experiences are good, and relatable, I still read for entertainment and escape. I have less than zero interest in seeing every single nasty aspect of real life and the real world echoed in fiction, which this book does to the n'th degree. Just, no. Yuck.
Profile Image for Brooke.
213 reviews24 followers
July 30, 2019
“His smile was like the last gulp of air you take before diving under water, when you don’t know how soon you’ll be able to breathe again.”

Trigger warnings: Mental illness and child molestation.

Solomon and Ash are best friends, but after the traumatic incident happened that neither of them can remember, they’ve lived in two very different worlds. Solomon lives in Darkside, the world of dinosaurs, monsters, and magic, while Ash lives in reality. But as Solomon slips deeper into his world, Ash is forced to try and bring him back, thus remembering what they’ve both forgotten.

I really loved Solomon’s world, and how the monsters, enemies, and friends in it accurately represented the feelings and turmoil he is going through since he’s not able to deal with them in reality. Another thing that won me over and made my heart feel all the fuzzies and sorrow was Solomon and Ash’s close friendship. Ash is always there for Solomon, and does whatever is in his best interest despite the ramifications. But it was also so heartbreaking as Ask realized there was a limit to what she could do to help her friend, and her helplessness is saddening.

Another things I really appreciated was how Miller wrote Ash’s parents. Parents in books are usually in their own world, and don’t listen to/believe their children. But in this story, Ash’s parents are supportive of Ash and it’s everything. This story is a bit difficult to read because of the topics it addresses, but it’s necessary to bring light to situations like these so that we are more ready to help, accept, and believe those in pain.

Destroy all Monsters is told in two POVs, and while this is not necessarily automatically a negative thing, in this case it was. As others have said in their reviews of this book, it was very disruptive. Had the chapters been longer, it might not have been a hindrance, but because the chapters were so short, the constantly changings POVs made it hard for me to connect to the characters. And it didn’t help that both POVs were in “different worlds” and semi parallel; it was a bit difficult to bridge the two storylines and they seemed disjointed until the end.
Profile Image for BookChampions.
1,184 reviews108 followers
March 20, 2020
I think I liked this even more the second time around! Miller champions the oppressed, the marginalized, the tossed aside, but he imbues these characters with agency and often badassery. They are not their hopelessness nor their trauma. They chop away at the patriarchy. I am a better person and reader because of Sam J Miller.

I'm going to start this review with a "Hell Yeah!" and disclose that I've read nearly everything Miller has written. I'm a huge fan of his work. I'd encourage readers to find his blog to read the many science fiction stories he's written, many of them award-winners, in addition to the now-three novels he's published. Miller's debut novel for teens, The Art of Starving, is probably my all-time favourite of the genre, and his debut novel for adults, Blackfish City, is a gloriously hopeful glimpse at a future dismantled by the destruction of climate change.

I feel like I have a pretty firm handle on (and appreciation of) the project(s) Miller tackles with his work. His ability to write in these distinct forms—novel, short story, adult, teen—both impresses and delights me since I never feel like I'm reading the same story just repackaged.

I had high hopes for Destroy All Monsters, considering I've been awaiting this novel since January, and I'm entirely satisfied and spent with this latest output. It's original, emotionally stirring, wholly human, and never bleak—even though it covers some heavy topics (which I'm going to avoid talking about for fear of spoilers). If you want to know potential trigger warnings, other reviewers have mentioned those, but so long as a writer is generous with its reader, I tend to simply surrender to the world of the book and be surprised by the world that unfolds here—even when an author or a book ends up gutting me. When I read Miller's earlier work, I felt an undeniable and generous empathy for his characters and a genuine hope for a better world that makes the bleaker moments of the book less crippling. I think you can trust that you are in good hands.

This newest novel is the story of two friends, Ash and Solomon, and a bond that they share, even while time and a suppressed trauma from the past has caused a crack in their friendship. Ash's narration is grounded in a cold dissatisfaction with a brutal status quo, while Solomon's is untethered to reality. Solomon embodies an "other side" world where people keep dinosaurs and dragons as pets and those with magic powers are persecuted and othered into oblivion. As I happily grappled with Solomon's complex imaginary world and tried to unlock what haunted these two characters, I was brought into a literary vision that also calls for change—a signature of Miller's work. His stories insist that we can be better—in this case, that we aren't our traumas and that we are capable to "destroy our world's monsters" if we can imagine possibilities, create art, lean on one another, and never lose hope in our inherent goodness.

Sam J. Miller is a modern science fiction writer, and you kinda have to expect an unusual and wild ride, but I guarantee you are getting a full-hearted vision if you choose to read this novel. His work is as visionary as Octavia Butler's but he's also more concerned with human relationships than anyone I've read in the genre so far. I cherish his stories because they use the tropes of science fiction to explore often tough issues of identity and friendship and sexuality and activism.

Miller's work may appear more akin to Butler in terms of genre, but I would also link his work to that of Audre Lorde and the feminist stance that the personal is political. In "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," Lorde writes:

"For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power I rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world."

When you choose to read a Miller novel, you know you are going to learn something about the power of how individuals try to make the world a better place through creativity, the daring to imagine a better world, and the necessary bonds that must form to bring lasting change. There is definitely a loathing of patriarchal oppression in this novel, and he upholds the daring outsider again and again in his work. It's a stirring joy to watch these characters struggle and vie in order to take down the pillars of patriarchy.

With Destroy All Monsters, you'll enter a YA world that feels both familiar and unforgettable, scary and redemptive. Comparisons to Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series and A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future are entirely apt, but given his distinctly science fiction pedigree and background, Miller adds his own flavor to the YA realm. This is still a science fiction novel, yes, but it's imaginative and weird and painful and generous and about very real traumas and failures and heroics. It's damn good heart-on-sleeve hand-gripping-armchair writing that makes you feel all sorts of things. So worth the wait.
Profile Image for Amanda Hanson.
Author 3 books51 followers
July 4, 2019
I loved this. It was a fun mix of magic with life, reality with the unreal. Sam J. Miller is so good - the words were beautiful. I’m going to be thinking about this book for a really long time.

Trigger warning for sexual abuse of children.
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,233 reviews464 followers
April 21, 2022
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

When Ash and Solomon are 12 years old, a traumatic event causes Ash to lose her memory, while Solomon retreats into a fantasy world of his creation.

I read Sam J. Miller's other book, The Art of Starving and really enjoyed that one! This one, not so much. I get what the author was trying to do... I just wasn't the biggest fan of how it was executed. The dual POV was interesting enough, and I liked trying to piece together Solomon's world, and how each segment related to the real world. At times, it could get confusing though, trying to figure out who was who, and what was what in the differing worlds. I was left unsatisfied in the end, and honestly am not 100% sure how to feel about this book.
Profile Image for Liz Sheridan.
35 reviews3 followers
July 22, 2019
In his second YA book, Sam J. Miller returns to Hudson, NY to tell the linked stories of Ash and Solomon, two friends who share a strong bond, fallout from trauma, and of course, magic. The characters alternate 1st-person POV through the book, and while both narratives are wildly divergent---Ash is learning to cope with depression in the "real world" by taking prescribed medication; Solomon copes with trauma in a world his mind has constructed to protect him---both protagonists share a mission to protect their town from the monsters who would destroy the marginalized.
Recommended for readers who believe in the magic and power that reside in every person.
1 review1 follower
November 4, 2019
i wanted to like this book. i was intrigued by the story and the parallel worlds, and depictions of mental illness. but throughout reading the whole book, i simply could not enjoy it. i immediately noticed the ineffective use of a tool used in surreal and psychedelic fictions, the reversal of the “show not tell” tip. in many of these works, authors use more of the characters perspective and less descriptive imagery to give a sense of confusion and disturbance. but this really didn’t work in this book, and there was none of those enchanting feelings.

the switching pov was another issue for me. each chapter was so short, mere pages, and it didn’t give the reader any sense of comfort or connection to the characters. it would’ve been much more powerful to have a peaceful, unchanging point of view in one world, and then to be suddenly plunged into confusion in the next. i really couldn’t get to follow the characters or the setting.

and the characters are another issue. they seem to have the same voice in a way; there really seems to be no distinction between the ways they think. this is a huge missed opportunity and fault, as the trauma ash and solomon experienced definitely affected them in different ways, and to erase that is to make their trauma irrelevant.

the trauma our characters face has no repercussions, it seems, since we learn that darkside is indeed real. this is an issue, since it doesn’t give an opportunity to explore solomon’s psyche and the mental illnesses he could face. and ash’s depression is barely addressed in the story, as it doesn’t affect her trying to face the conflict, and when it is addressed it is done so completely inaccurately. towards the beginning of the book, as she walks through the gloomy and chaotic halls of her school, she says something like, “i won’t let these people plunge me into a depressive episode.” (i’m paraphrasing.) this is an inaccurate depiction of depression and it negates the effects that mental illness has within a person’s own brain, instead making it seemed like it’s caused by outside forces.

darkside is another issue entirely. it seems to not really parallel the “real” world, but only connects at the end. it seems like a metaphor for struggles minorities face, but it really isn’t addressed well and honestly seem like the author is trying to perpetuate a “white savior” narrative in which they think their commentary has some sort of resolve or moral. the depiction of hate crimes in the real world, as well, is honestly embarrassing and frankly offensive. when ash is concluding why sheffield participates in such crimes, she figures that he’s targeting the “weirdos” and people who are “different”. this diminishes the historic oppression minorities have faced, and goes so far as to connect a hate crime against a jewish individual to one against a christian individual, which of course, is completely inappropriate and inaccurate.

overall, this book tries to address many issues by ineffectively using many subplots, but none of them provide any insight or lessons into what they might be. the inclusion of darkside as a real world only further perpetuates negative ideas about these issues.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Crystal ✬ Lost in Storyland.
986 reviews195 followers
July 22, 2019
Destroy All Monsters is a book that surprised me. Based on the premise, I went in expecting a contemporary novel and received magical realism and a parallel world. I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, the social issues / mental health classifications are relevant given the hate crimes, police brutality and oppressiveness, and Ash’s depression (and Solomon’s something). On the other hand, we’re led to believe that Solomon has schizophrenia but come out with the answer that artists are able to tap into another, magical realm. Does this result downplay the issue of schizophrenia? I don’t know, but it leaves me with questions.

At first glance, the novel appears to alternate between the two 1st person POVs of Ash and Solomon. Later, it becomes apparent that there are actually four (more like three) POVs: that of our side Ash and Solomon and that of Darkside Solomon. Because of the number of narrators and the frequent shifting of the POV, I never quite felt like I got to know the characters. The focus of this novel is more on the idea that monsters are made and how they lurk under even the most benign exteriors. How they lurk even in the people we know and trust.

While events on our side also parallel events in Darkside, the storyline itself isn’t entirely continuous; time will skip when we return to a particular narrator. This can be confusing, and there were POVs that I skimmed because I wanted to get back to another POV. Darkside Solomon and our side Ash were especially concerning to me because (1) they play more of an active role in the story and (2) they make choices that put them in dangerous situations. The mystery of twelve years ago and the present hate crimes kept me turning the pages.

The mystery of the event that happened twelve years ago threads in and out of the narrative, and it has bearing on the present day. Solomon and Ash have strong negative emotions towards it, which may have something to do with their inability to remember, and it influences how they treat other issues once they recover their memories. That said, the big reveal didn’t feel like a surprise, and once initiated, the resolution moves quickly and straightforwardly to the finish.

Not everything resolves happily or conclusively, but it’s clear what needs to be done. Some, if not all, characters are clearly moving forward. Others we can only root for—and I was left feeling okay with this because the events of this chapter of the characters’ lives has reached its conclusion. And because the characters’ uncertain future is reflective of real life.

A really strange read, but it was interesting. The external conflicts are pretty straightforward, no big mystery or twist of events there. The mystery of what happened twelve years ago - and whether this was two or four POVs kept me turning the pages until the end.

Note: I'm seeing this shelved quite a bit as contemporary, but there are magical elements to this book, plus a parallel world.
Profile Image for Mik.
133 reviews
August 16, 2019
3 stars.

Wow, this is another one of those books that I just don't know how to feel about it. It reminds me a lot of when I read Borne--the setting and characters were memorable and had a ton of potential, but the story just didn't come together.

Destroy All Monsters follows two protagonists in what I perceived as two parallel realities. Solomon's POV in the "otherside" which is full of domesticated monsters, people with otherworldly powers, etc. Ash's POV in what is essentially our own world.

Solomon seems to be an overlap between these two, seeing and talking about things from the otherside as if they are reality, but real world Solomon and otherside Solomon are completely different characters.

The main problem I had with the story was nothing came together in a satisfying way. It pulled up too many loose ends, then hastily tied them together in the last three chapters. It felt like the author was fed up with the story and wanted to finish it as quickly as they could. Major events happened much too quickly, giving the reader no time to digest them.

Neither plotlines, otherside or real world, were anything special. The only reason they were interesting was because they were in tandem with eachother.

There was potential, but it was squandered on a hastily written, bland story.

And now, like I did with Borne, I will list my problems and unanswered questions:
Profile Image for Sam.
172 reviews3 followers
July 20, 2019
This book had the potential of a five star read, I read the entire thing in one night, so it was at least easy to get into.

My main (and pretty much only issue) with this book was the dual narrative. I normally love more than one narrator in a book, but in this case I found myself rejoicing when Solomon's chapters were shorter. Ash was the interesting one to me, and it was easy for her chapters to fly by, reading Solomon's segments felt like a chore.

But I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone! So if you're considering reading this, my suggestion would be to do so.
January 27, 2020
This was just okay. I thought it might subvert the trope it was going for but it didn't. I mean, it was a bit more original, but I felt that came at the cost of the story. They're basically two stories going on here and so, in the end, they both felt like a novella rather than a full book. It's hard to explain without actually going into detail.
Profile Image for Surbhi Das.
467 reviews43 followers
July 9, 2019
I am not giving this book any star rating because honestly, I can't decide. In truth, this book deals with some serious mental health related issues and I thought it was narrated quite beautifully. However, I didn't enjoy reading it as much as I thought I would.

I suppose it wasn't for me!

Many thanks to FFBC and Edelweiss+ for the ARC!

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Profile Image for Rebecca.
242 reviews16 followers
July 13, 2019
I really like Sam J. Miller's writing and stories, but this book did make me realize that I prefer when his writing leans more toward magical realism than outright fantasy (I loved The Art of Starving but wasn't crazy about Blackfish City, and similarly preferred Ash's chapters over Solomon's). It was also a little disruptive to constantly switch perspectives (sometimes after only 2-3 pages), but this is still an excellent book I'd recommend to fans of A.S. King, Shaun David Hutchinson, and Patrick Ness.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
914 reviews4 followers
September 7, 2020
Half contemporary high school outcast tale and half noir detective fantasy, absolutely beautifully written. I'll probably read anything Sam Miller writes, because his prose is just amazing. The two separate plots made sense together, and even though the big reveal is pretty obvious, it's handled well and there's enough space to get it settled in your head before having to read about it. The aftermath is also well done and believable. The audiobook narrators did an excellent job keeping the tone of each story.
Profile Image for Sasha.
869 reviews32 followers
October 28, 2020
I read this one over a year ago, and while I don't remember the plot too much, the imagery and the surreal writing style that gaslights you into thinking that you're weird for not being able to accept this world as it is (um, in a good way) remains with me. The two worlds stitched together haphazardly, the super interesting relationship between the two characters, and the playground and the parents were my favorite parts. I think about this book very freqently, and if this is what Sam J. Miller can offer, I will be reading all the other books too.
Profile Image for Just_ann_now.
695 reviews10 followers
July 31, 2019
What a gifted storyteller Miller is! He's skillfully melded magical realism, fantasy, and his own real-life experiences with bullying into an amazing story. Told in alternating pov's, by a delusional teenage boy and his real-life best friend, the fantastical and contemporary storylines intertwine into a stunning finish. If you have a teen in your life (or know a teen, or have ever been a teen), I highly recommend this. (Though I'm not as optimistic about the power of love and compassion to turn hardened hearts as the author is, though.)
Profile Image for Sonja.
802 reviews6 followers
September 17, 2019
Wow. Beautiful, poetic, and disturbing - a story threaded between the reality lived by Ash and the dark fantasy world inhabited by her best friend Solomon. As we move between them and they seek the roots of their shared trauma, Solomon’s spiral into mental illness is begins to pull her into his darkside world. Enthralling.
Profile Image for Kendall.
163 reviews10 followers
April 22, 2020
3.5 stars*

I didn't love this as much as The Art of Starving, but Sam J. Miller really is the master of blurring that line between mental illness and magical realism and boy is it interesting every single time. Y'all there are DINOSAURS...but also....are there?

Trigger and Content Warnings: Trauma, PTSD, sexual assault (child molestation), arson
Profile Image for Grace W.
826 reviews8 followers
June 26, 2020
I was excited about the premise of this book but it really didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. The narrative was jarring and I think how the discussion of mental health was handled could have been a lot better. It ultimately didn’t speak to me.
Profile Image for Dana Berglund.
1,052 reviews12 followers
December 28, 2019
Ash and Solomon are complicated people with a complicated shared history, and a more complicated present. They also exist in a parallel world where magic exists, Ash is a princess under a magic spell, and Solomon rides his dinosaur across the city. I thought I had it all figured out early in, but it turns out the book was more later than I gave it credit for. It earned 4 stars from me partly because there were still some mysteries left to unravel when I finished reading.
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