by David Almond

Reviewer Rating:
3
Tags:

Review

At times brilliant and devastating, and at other times languid to the point of 'where is this going?!', The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is a dark, messy book about violence, miracles, love, and death.

Almond is great at creating setting; here the locale is Blinkbonny, the ruins of a small town that has been bombed to near human extinction. You can hear the footsteps on the rubble, smell the rot of human flesh, and hear the murmurs of survivors' desperate voices. They wash through the ears of Billy Dean and filter through his brain, but his perception is marred by his total isolation from society, aside from his mother and father, the butcher, and a spiritual medium.

I found the pidgin English (or perhaps it's phonetic spellings) to be intriguing and engaging at first but tiresome by the end. Since Billy is writing this many years after the events in the book took place, wouldn't he have learned to spell more conventionally? Sometimes it seemed gimmicky.

The plot lulls at the middle but picks up considerably at the end. The imagery is incredibly strong and surprising throughout. Whether it's a Jesus-head that Billy unearths from the muck, or the bird feathers he inserts into a dead mouse that comes to life and flies away in the night, I loved the surrealism.

It would take a strong, patient YA reader to make it through the entire book, so it's a tough one to recommend. Perhaps one with a penchant for psychedelia and religious subversion? A read-alike to Siddhartha? That's probably a stretch, but there's not much else like it out there.

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