Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Adults Problem: A Tale of Two Monster Hunters

I finished Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist this weekend.  It's a fine book, for older middle grade readers or young adults who are not averse to gore and horror (the book's jacket markets it for readers aged fourteen and older; the point of view character is twelve years old).  Nothing I say in what follows should be understood to detract from my recommendation of the book.

It was an interesting read for me because of the similarities to my fellow Story Monkey E.J. Patten's Return to Exile, and because of one important difference.  In both books, a boy learns about monsters and the hunting thereof from a quirky and cantankerous older mentor.  In Return to Exile, that mentor is missing and out of the picture from early in the book.  In The Monstrumologist, the mentor is always present.

Which means that The Monstrumologist, an otherwise excellent, book, has a serious case of the Adults Problem (a MR / YA pitfall about which we have previously blogged).  Young Will Henry is almost entirely passive, following around his mentor figure and taking orders from him.  When he is active, it is only on the tactical level, not the strategic level.

Which, weirdly, means that Will Henry doesn't really have a plot.  So the real protagonist of The Monstrumologist is actual the Obi Wan Kenobi figure, and the POV lad Will Henry is a secondary, subplot character.  This is fine, the protagonist doesn't have to be the POV character (the POV character of the Sherlock Holmes stories is Watson), but for a middle reader book, the result is that it decreases reader sympathy for the character with whom the middle reader is supposed to sympathize, the boy his own age.

How about your book?  How are you handling the Adults Problem?

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