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Sea Monsters

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,140 ratings  ·  210 reviews
Pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sea Monsters offers an intoxicating portrait of Mexico in the late 1980s.

One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her l
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Catapult
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RD Chiriboga Moncayo I was immersed in Aridjis's novel completely but I found the second half of Voung's novel very weak. He brings up plot points and doesn't develop them…moreI was immersed in Aridjis's novel completely but I found the second half of Voung's novel very weak. He brings up plot points and doesn't develop them and his narrator whines too much for my taste. A good novel requires more than beautiful language.(less)

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Average rating 3.41  · 
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 ·  1,140 ratings  ·  210 reviews

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Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although readable, and easily knocked out in a day, this just left me feeling kind of 'meh'. The story just ambles along and I'm not quite sure what it was trying to say - or even if there WAS any point. And although some of Aridjis' prose was quite lovely, at almost no point was I convinced it was from the mind of a seventeen year old runaway. ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2019
All thoughts on this need to be prefaced with the understanding that I have a very high tolerance for plotlessness in novel. Sea Monsters is exactly that, essentially plotless. A teenage girl decides to run away to the coast in Mexico, with a boy she barely knows. What happens to her there, or what doesn’t really happen, is not the point. Aridjis is a deeply poetic writer. This is a novel full of beautiful description, and astute observation of both people and the natural world. Although many of ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, usa
Chloe Aridjis' powerful evocation of Mexico is the real star of this mesmerizing novel: 17-year-old Luisa falls in love with the enigmatic 19-year-old Tomás, and together, they run away from Mexico City to the beach community of Zipolite on the southern coast of Oaxaca. Aridjis herself grew up in Mexico City, and the text reflects her intimate knowledge of the culture and the scenery. What sets her story apart from typical travel- and coming-of-age tales is that she dares to venture into mytholo ...more
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In spite of its lively premise and its lovely cover art Sea Monsters is one of the most lacklustre books I've read this year. Thankfully, Sea Monsters is a slight novel, just around 200 pages. Then again, those 200 pages are a drag.

The summary for this novel is somewhat misleading as it promises the kind of surreal story that one could expect from authors such as Kevin Wilson or Samanta Schweblin. Sadly, Chloe Aridjis novel is far from being an inventive o
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literary fiction fans, flash fiction and prose poetry fans
Shelves: novella
I know nothing about this author, but saw some buzz about the book, and am remarkably impressed with the author's incredibly deft way with prose. Over and over, I marked passages to be repeated, but there are too many. Aridjis is a poet at heart, and a highly intelligent one, at that. I LOVED her way with words and her quick sketches (the book is really a group of tiny sketches strung together) on history, shipwrecks, sea forms that interrupt the flow of the plot. This is a very brief, contempor ...more
Z. F.
A common complaint against "literary" fiction by people who don't read much of it is that it's tedious and mundane, a bunch of flowery descriptions of everyday occurrences. Why read about things you can just walk outside and do yourself, these critics demand.

Well, Sea Monsters is evidently the litfic all those people have in mind, because that's more or less exactly what it is. Two hundred pages of a privileged teenager ditching her private school classes to mope around Mexico City or the beach
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Chloe has written a novel that is quiet, charming, and familiar. Because it described itself as "pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees", I was expecting more of a classic 80's vibe than it gave off. I mean, hell, Luisa is name dropping all of the music that accompanied me throughout most of my teenage years - The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode! Nonetheless, it managed to unearth some long forgotten memories, running around with boys I knew my parents ...more
Leslie Ray
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Seventeen year old Luisa trades her safe middle-class life for a quest to find a group of Ukranian Dwarfs who have escaped a Russian circus. This is a journey that she feels will give her meaning and she persuades a boy, Tomas, to accompany her to the coast of Mexico on this adventure.
This is set in the 80's in Mexico and the music Luisa listens to provides the rounding out of her character.
This is a mesmerizing and beautifully written novel. It is hard to just sum up in a paragraph or two the
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5] Don’t expect a magical tale involving sea monsters per se. This is an enigmatic, hazy, suggestive novel, perhaps a bit like Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. It’s poetic in the sense that Aridjis is in no hurry whatsoever in terms of plot but rather focuses on describing seemingly inconsequential things that the narrator perceives in specific places in 1980s Mexico, creating a very strong sense of place thanks to her sublime language. Some of the perceived haziness may be due to the fact that I re ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Somewhere between 2.5 and three stars.

There's some lovely writing here and very occasionally a striking image but most of this narrative is a rather tired, trite, saggy Bildungsroman dressed up with hip, now somewhat retro, musical references and pallidly evoked Mexican locales. If I'm going to read about Mexican teens, I'd much rather spend my time with Guadalupe Nettel or Carmen Boullosa. I get the feeling Aridjis is going for something deep here, something mythically resonant (all the Kyther
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads, fiction
Seventeen year-old Luisa, coming of age in Mexico City in 1988, runs away to the beach on a whim with an older boy she has a crush on (on the premise of looking for some missing Ukrainian dwarfs she read about in the newspaper), in this dreamy, intellectual short novel. Luisa’s imagination is readily captured by others and by her surroundings, but when reality intrudes on her projections, it inevitably disappoints.

I enjoyed Aridjis’ writing very much once I got into the swing of things. Her des
In all honesty, I can't give Sea Monsters an unbiased review: it contains nearly every device and element that I'm obsessed with, from the sea to dogs to post-punk to runaways and dreamlike landscapes. It's like Bruno Schulz if he smoked a lot of weed and listened to a lot of early Nick Cave and Bauhaus. Which is to say that it's not necessarily the most plot-driven of books, but goddamn if the language isn't so immersive and vivid that I didn't care very much about the lack of "action." It does ...more
I read the first 30 pages and I have no idea what’s happening (apart from nothing much), except that a 17-year-old girl is exploring derelict mansions in a Mexican town with one guy or another. The atmosphere is well done, but there’s no way the nonexistent plot can keep me reading for another 145 pages. Shame I never even got to those Ukrainian dwarves.
Joe M
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A dreamy, spellbinding novel that blends tropical escapism, 80's new wave, and magic realism from urban Mexico City to the exotic resort beaches of Oaxaca. Like a sugary, umbrella-laden cocktail, one could argue that Sea Monsters has an abundance of style and quirk over substance, but for myself, it was just fun to go adrift with teen-runaway Luisa on this strange adventure, and take in the remarkable mood and atmosphere that Aridjis created. Think of this as a thinking person's beach book and y ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is filled with wonder and surprise. Gorgeous passages evoke a sense of wanderlust, of comfortable dislocation and a sort of longed for isolation. It’s rare to find a novel that marries the post punk, gothic influences of my youth to the sun drenched, Oaxacan daydream of my current existence. Chloe Aridjis, someone skilled in the painterly art of wordscapes and with such an internationally replete experience, deftly explores this odd combination.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: a-novels, 1-lasp
So much potential, so scattered and poorly executed.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This story is akin to a roadtrip adventure story meets a coming of age story. But not exactly that.

There was magic in this novel. It was very grounded but also ran alongside the other world that is always running alongside us. It dipped its toes in each. Sometimes, bathed.

The story felt genuine, nothing ever felt forced. There were great turns of phrases yet nothing ever felt like the author was showing off her linguistic ability (though they are many).

I was hypnotized through much of it. It’s a
Angie Reisetter
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
On the surface, there isn't much going on here. Girl runs away from home to the beach, gets bored. But in the swirling imagination of Luisa, where we spend our time in this book, everything has the potential to be the leading edge of an adventure, a mystery. She's a capital R Romantic, and is continually disappointed by those around her. She listens to goth rock from the 80s, and since I was unfamiliar with this genre, I looked up her albums online and listened to them while reading, which I rec ...more
Shalini | Book Rambler
Set in a picturesque town/city of New Mexico, Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis offers us a look into some of teenage Louisa’s days. While reading the book, it was as if I was walking along with Luisa and even though there was no plot, I enjoyed the utter languidness it offered me. If you asked me to sum up the story for you, I’ll say that it was a coming of age story of a teenager called Luisa who is bored with her everyday life; so she decides to go on an adventure to find some missing circus dwar ...more
Stewart Home
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The prose is beautiful & the narrative details Mexican goth subculture in the 1980s. The first part is set in Mexico City but the two teen protagonists run away to a beach town, which creates a wonderful tension between the geographical setting and the post-punk style favoured by our anti-heroes. The descriptions of music clubs are groovy, and our two goths have fabulous cinematic tastes - on a date they go to see a revival of Muñecos infernales (or Curse of the Doll People from 1961 as it's kno ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
A tedious read, this story left me disappointed, especially since I had so much looked forward to it. While there was a lot of potential, including some well-developed characters, the writing was tedious. It was clearly striving to be perceived as art while losing all attempts at actually entertaining the reader.

Additionally, the descriptions of this book always talk of the “soundtrack,” but aside from casual references to what some characters were listening to, the music had very little to do
Miina Saarna
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading2020
It’s a slim book but somehow it took me forever to finish it.

It starts as a slow, strange and wandering story, but if you stick with it, it will grow on you and in the end you’ll really like it. Maybe even love it. At least, that’s what happened to me.
Kacee M.
Dec 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
1 : absolutely and atrociously boring--not at all like it is described on the back cover. The attempts at being poetic and having poetic language fall flat as they are so stacked on top of each other they stop having meaning or beauty at all. There is no plot (dont let the description fool you) or really any sense of purpose, and the last 20 pages where the father tells his own version of the story are the only good ones in the whole book

A description of beachcombers for reference to the over-w
Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)

Imprisoned on this island, I would say, Imprisoned on this island. And yet I was no prisoner and this was no island.

And so begins this book that read like the waking hour from a lucid dream. A story tinged on the outer fringes with little oddities, and absurdities, but never quite straying into the realm of magical realism. Set in the blinding sunlit dusty streets of Mexico, Sea Monsters is a contemporary, off-beat story of a 17-year-old teenager, Luisa, who one day, decides to run away fro
Paris (parisperusing)
“There are two kinds of romantics, my older cousin had explained, the kind who is constantly falling in love and simply needs a person into whom they can pour every thought, dream, and project, and the kind of romantic who remains alone, waiting and waiting for the right person to arrive, a person who may not even exist. It was too early to know which kind I would be.”

Luisa is perhaps the most insightful 17-year-old narrator I’ve read in a novel yet. I trusted her instincts completely. I loved h
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Although I finished this several months ago, this story still lingers pleasantly in my mind. Intrigued by the beautiful cover art, I picked it up on a hunch that I would enjoy it after reading the absurd premise. It may be too subtle for some, but I relished the pacing and quiet magic of this book. It was a fun adventure where we can get in touch with the optimism and wonder that teens see life's possibilities with, still with a dash of worldliness. The locations and details that the protagonist ...more
Stacey D.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a glorious, fictional coming-of-age story, one that triggers a highly sensual, evocative sense of place. There’s just something about those beautiful, yet dangerous beaches off Oaxaca, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, that I find so intriguing. It reminded me a lot of the hauntingly tragic and stirring Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, which I loved. Maybe it’s the blinding white heat of day and what lurks under the sea, more so than the night, that revs me up.

"There hadn't been much sun th
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a difficult book to parse. Because it only ever gives us the point of view of a naive, idealistic, privileged, impetuous, bookish, 17-year-old girl, it's almost impossible to get out of her head far enough to gain a critical perspective on her.

The narrator-protagonist is painfully and pathologically romantic. The book regularly disappears into prose that is dripping with solopsism. The tiniest little detail, gesture, or appearance that she witnesses is liable to send Luisa into wistful r
Jos M
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, evocative and interesting.17 year old Luisa goes on a holiday with a boy called Tomas. Dense, beautiful writing meant that I took a lot of time with this. There's some strong thematic content going on here, the difference between daydreaming and reality, the mythic past and the reality of everyday life. The relationships are really well-observed as well.(view spoiler) ...more
- ̗̀ Riki ̖́-
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
im so confused hh what
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Chloe Aridjis was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. After receiving a BA from Harvard, she went on to receive a PhD from Oxford University. A collection of essays on Magic and Poetry in Nineteenth-century France was released in 2005. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, followed in 2009, winning the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France.

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Lori Hettler is the founder and moderator of The Next Best Book Club, one of the most popular groups on Goodreads, and has been a reader and...
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“There are two kinds of romantics, my older cousin had explained, the kind who is constantly falling in love and simply needs a person into whom they can pour every thought, dream, and project, and the kind of romantic who remains alone, waiting and waiting for the right person to arrive, a person who may not even exist. It was too early to know which kind I would be.” 4 likes
“If I stayed in much longer I was certain I would dissolve, there were probably hundreds of dissolved bodies in the ocean, swirling around with the shells and seaweed, that’s what happens when you immerse yourself too fully in any vastness, you eventually become part of it, part of the landscape, quite literally.” 3 likes
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