Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes

Whoever wrote the jacket cover blurb for this book sure knew how to attract readers to it. A gruesome murder of a boy that is found with the upper body sewn onto a deer in a “genre-bending novel of suspense” gave me high hopes, especially factoring in aspects like the exploration of the human condition and how “broken” one is. Sadly, and even somewhat predictably, “Broken Monsters” didn’t live up to the big words in the synopsis. It wasn’t particularly suspenseful, nor was it a very good exploration of human character the way it made itself sound. It’s difficult to classify what this book IS exactly, though even with its shortcomings, there was something interesting about it that I nonetheless managed to enjoy, regardless of how sad it was at the same time due to the heap of lost potential this ended up being.


This isn’t a murder mystery – the reader knows who the killer is from the get-go, even follows along with his actions from the very beginning, as he has his own section in the narrative. I know they always say that a killer can be anyone and one shouldn’t look for obvious indicators of violence in someone, therefore it isn’t so much that which I struggled with understanding about him as much as it was trying to grasp the maniacal idea which he pursued from about a quarter into the book until the very end. It was how suddenly it appeared, as well as how abstract it was, that stumped me. As an artist and writer I understand that sudden gust of inspiration, that muse-like whisper that can strike at any moment. Yet the thought was more ideological and had some philosophical roots to it. Despite its twisted nature there was something almost valid about it, except the novel was a perfect example of the extreme negative manifestation of that idea. I wish it was explored more, rather than simply making the man a crazy psycho killer who felt that this dream was alive and speaking through him as a separate entity. This topic was skimmed entirely when, in my opinion, it should’ve made up a significant portion of the book, with a closer connection to the rest of the characters.


In terms of commenting on characters and narrative structure/pacing, saying that it felt rushed and all over the place sums it up quite nicely. There wasn’t much time to connect with some of the characters, while others that the reader is meant to sympathize with elicit a negative and annoying reaction instead, particularly Layla and Cas’ friendship. If there is one thing I hate about authors who write about young adult characters, it’s the stereotypical belief that teenagers interact the way those two girls did. Contrary to popular belief, not all girls call each other “bitch”, “slut”, “cow”, or some other derogatory term. It isn’t a term of endearment. Detective Versado somehow felt incomplete by the end, TK left a confusing feeling, and Jonno quite frankly reminded me of why I hate journalism so much and why I think humans will end up ultimately blowing themselves up in smithereens and relishing it at the same time. All of these shortcomings were due to the lack of a “grounding point”, something that would tie them all back together and help the story revolve and build around that one point. It’s why I felt so sad upon finishing it, as there was so much potential if the point I made above had been considered by the author.


It isn’t a terrible novel, though it isn’t particularly suspenseful. The ending leaves you with the safe, stereotypical “is this real or a dream?” sort of ending. And sometimes, as the movie “Inception” proved, this kind of ending is satisfactory as it reaffirms the established doubt between reality and dreams. With “Broken Monsters” this kind of ending showed the author’s hesitation, and the only thing it emphasized was the shortcomings of plot and character. I enjoyed the implications and beginnings this book provided, but felt it was mostly a lost opportunity that could’ve truly been a memorable and moving novel if the dream sequences and the vicious dream itself had been wholly incorporated from the very beginning.