There may be spoilers ahead!
I picked up Monuments as it was The YA Room’s book club pick for the month of September. I had met the author, Will Kostakis, and really liked listening to him talk. He rambled about writing, identity and being an author which just made me want to work harder at writing to feel what he was describing.
Blurb: All 16-year-old Connor is trying to do is avoid his ex-best friend when he stumbles upon a trapdoor to a secret chamber under his school. But when Sally Rodgers breaks into the same secret chamber looking for an ancient being, things take an unexpected turn . . . and Connor's life will never be the same again. Along with the mysterious Sally and, later on, his new friend Locky, Connor discovers the Monuments - gods who have been buried for generations - who created the world and hid themselves away from humanity to keep everyone safe. But now they're exposed and vulnerable, and Connor isn't sure who, himself included, can be trusted with the knowledge and the power these gods have. Monuments is the first book in an exciting new duology from YA star, Will Kostakis. Buy the book: Book Depository | Dymocks
Before this, Will has only written Contemporary novels in The First Third and Sidekicks, so this is his first time writing a fantasy.
There are a lot of technical aspects of this novel that once you really look at it, beyond the fun and games of the storyline, are really annoying. So much goes on in this book that sometimes it felt like bits and pieces are thrown in for the cliché fantasy feel. This makes anything I speak about spoilers.
I had fun reading this novel. It was simple, easy to read and gave me a new mythology to love, but that’s where the issues start. The reason I enjoyed the simplicity of the writing was because I thought I was reading a Middle-Grade, not a YA novel as it is marketed as.
Monuments is a YA novel with its themes and character maturity/ age but the writing made it feel very much like I was reading a Middle-Grade. The novel is told in the first person by Connor, an openly gay student who attends a catholic high-school in Sydney. At times Connor sounds younger than the 16-year-old he is, often throwing me off, especially since he is ‘dating’ an 18-year-old. I adored the fact that both Connor and his love interest are openly and confidently gay and the fact that this novel didn’t actually revolve around this fact.
I really enjoyed the small things about Connor’s character. The fact that he is Greek and called his grandfather and grandmother Yaya & Pappoú. I personally have many Greek and European friends and I myself am a third-generation Australian, with Italian-born grandparents. It’s always so amazing whenever I see Australian-European characters that use their parent’s/ grandparent’s language to identify their family as we would do in real life.
For instance, I haven’t seen this in YA lit yet, but I call all three of my aunties Zia when in their presence, so context and social cues as well as how loud I’m calling for them really helps to identify who I’m talking to.
So far I’ve only discussed what I really liked because it was overall an enjoyable experience and I had a fun time reading this story; but from a certain point in the novel events and situations were just far too convenient to be realistic for an urban fantasy YA.
Usually, in YA the main character encounters obstacles, failures and revisions of their initial plan to reach their desired location/ situation, but in Monuments, everything happened so perfectly and there were no real-life obstacles that set the characters back in their journey. This was mentioned by a friend of mine and I was going to counter her argument, but even in the novel where it is evident Will may have attempted to create obstacles, they weren’t setbacks for our protagonists, rather set-ups for the next book in the series.
This is the main reason why I felt that it did read more like a Middle-Grade and not like a Young Adult novel. I personally love middle-grade novels and personally wouldn’t have minded if this was a very simplistic MG, but as a YA it misses the mark a little bit in terms of complexity.
This novel contains time travel which is very basic in nature. I liked it because it didn’t take away from the main quest of the characters and was not overdone. It was a single timeline and very nicely packaged, although because of this Connor had a lot of spare time to himself during his travel back to the future from where he was in the past and he didn’t do anything significant with it. I was really expecting him to stalk a few people, maybe come to terms with a few things, mostly some light stalking, but we just got a few pages of him contemplating some stuff and making a hole under his Pappoú’s retirement-home bedroom.
Overall I found that Monuments was a slow-to-medium-paced novel and was enjoyable to read. It was relatively easy to fly through with a fun, original mythology system that I actually want to explore a little in some fanfiction I’m planning to write.
★ Rating ★
I rated this book 3.5/5 stars if read as a YA, and 4/5 stars if read as a Middle-Grade novel. I did this because the entire time I was reading I totally forgot it was YA and just had fun, loving it as a MG novel but for older readers.
I think the Mythology needs to be more fleshed out but I assume this is due to the fact that this series is not going to be more than three novels, so there must be more coming. I will 100% pick up the second book in the series because I do want to know what happens next!
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