In A Monster Like Me, Wendy S. Swore has written a heart-tugging contemporary story that includes magic and some things that are all too real. Readers may start out thinking this is just a lovely imaginative story about monsters, but as you read, you find that the monsters are all around us. Sometimes, they are at the grocery store. Sometimes, they sit in the desk next to us. Sometimes, there are people who may seem like monsters, but they are just having a hard day themselves.
Parts of this book were difficult for me to read, because, spoiler alert, I was bullied as a child. I mean, I kind of think we all were, in some form or another. What I like here is that Swore has shown that Sophie has both a coping mechanism, and a deniability mechanism at the same time. She thinks that she is really cursed. But this stops her from accepting herself, and that stops her from standing up to the bullies. Until they start bullying someone else. It is sometimes easier to help someone else than to help oneself. And Sophie shows that in spades.
I loved the chapter introductions that showed pages from her own Big Book of Monsters, that told about each of the monsters, and maybe gave us a hint of what was going to appear in that chapter. This showcased her great imagination. It is true, some people more resemble trolls or goblins than humans. But that doesn’t mean we can treat them as any less than human.
The writing puts us right inside the head of a child, when anything seems possible, and the motives of adults aren’t always understood. Like Sophie, we all feel a little put upon sometimes, though she has a greater burden to bear than most. What perhaps makes this ring so true is the fact that the author had a hemagioma when she was a child. Writing from the point of authenticity is always going to be a win.
Sophie has a hemangioma, or blood tumor, that covers half of her face. It is full of blood vessels, and when she is upset, she can feel her heartbeat through it. Most of the time she covers it with her hair, or hides behind her big book, but that doesn’t always work. She and her mom have just moved to a new town, and this means a new school. Sophie dreads picture day more than anything, but almost as bad is being paraded out in front of the class as ‘the new girl.’ Her lunch money is stolen, and she despairs of ever having a friend. She is bent on looking for the cure for the curse that she is convinced was put upon her by an evil witch. She meets a ‘good witch’ in the neighborhood, and finally makes a friend. But that is almost shattered when her new friend’s mom says they can’t play together. On top of all that, there’s this guy hanging around her mom, and he just won’t go away. It is all a lot for a ten year old to handle.
There is so much packed into this story, it really is a lot to digest. This would make a great group read, as it offers a lot of opportunity for discussion. And there may be some children who are disturbed by parts of this, such as the bullying, or when Sophie fights with her mom, or thinks her mom won’t love her. So it is important to open up a dialogue about the issues raised here.
TW: verbal abuse, bullying
This book launches today from Shadow Mountain Publishing! I received an advance copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN 9781629725550, $16.99