*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Destroy All Monsters
Author: Sam J. Miller
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Destroy All Monsters is the kind of novel that you begin to read and perceive it to be one particular way, but the more you read and the further you entrench yourself in the story, the more you realize that the book is much more vast and profound that you imagined. This novel is told from two different perspectives, and it can even be said that it takes place in two different worlds. On the one hand is the world Ash inhabits that is nearly identical to our own. She is a teenager at a typical high school faced with increasingly difficult relationships between students of varying social groups. All Ash wants to do is find the perfect project to help her gain acceptance and hopefully a scholarship to a school somewhere out of town. Opposite to Ash is Solomon. While a version of Solomon exists in Ash’s world–a version without family or support and struggling with mental illness–in his own story line, Solomon is an investigative journalist who is a close friend to the princess, Ash. His world is full of fantastic creatures and magical powers, however a constant threat of genocide and violence against those with magic rumbles deep as war looms on the horizon.
Both perspectives are written so well. It’s nearly impossible to tell which world is the true world. Do both worlds exist? That’s the more likely answer, in some form or another. As we get to know Ash and Solomon, as well as the versions of themselves that exist in the other’s universe, we come to understand their history and their friendship as it unfolds and deeper, hidden aspects of their pasts begin to reveal themselves. There worlds are full of much darkness. They are two people on the cusp of adulthood and they are forced to tackle great and terrible issues together. There is darkness that they should never have to face, yet it confronts them head on. As they try to learn who they are and how their pasts have made them who they are today, Ash and Solomon begin to learn that they can rely on others beyond themselves. Only as they begin to grow does the door open for healing to take place.
There is some criticism surrounding the varying perspectives and how it may take away from the story as a whole, but I will argue that the starkly different stories are more similar than they appear at first glance. Instead of being two separate worlds, perhaps they are one and the same, but told through two vastly different lenses and informed by trauma and past experience in incredibly different ways. Though at first these perspectives appear to not align, as we uncover more information, we can see how one flows into the other and gets distorted or sharpened based on the POV of the speaker. The convoluted and chaotic nature of Solomon’s narrative is the exact point of his narrative. It is a protective barrier that he has built up to surround himself in a net of safety where he has some semblance of control and power, things that he has been striped of in the world that Ash shares. Ash’s world, in contrast, provides a more stable foundation, but even her world is not immune to chaos and destruction. As the worlds around them begin to fall apart, so too do the blockages preventing self-realization for both characters fall.
I am very glad to have discovered this book and I think it can be enjoyed by YA readers and non-YA readers alike. There is so much to be unpacked; I haven’t even scratched the surface.