All his life, Mitch has known his parents were hiding something from him, but he never thought the secret they kept would nearly cost him his life. Desperate for approval and love, Mitch finds solace and a kindred spirit online with a writing partner who uses the name “A. Monster” in their conversations. Now, after nearly a year, Mitch is going to be meeting his mysterious friend, face-to-face, for the first time.
Stan — A. Monster — is everything Mitch ever wanted. He says all the right things at the right time. He praises Mitch’s caution in not sending pictures online, praises his courage for being willing to meet him, tells him how much he admires the person Mitch is. And by the end of their first date, not twelve hours after that first shared smile, Mitch is moving in with Stan.
It is the worst decision he could make, and it might be his last one.
This novella tries to pack a lot into a handful of pages: an abusive relationship, a stalker, and a werewolf; a confused young man who doesn’t know how special he is; family secrets, both on Mitch’s side and Stan’s; and a good twin/evil twin set up. There’s a town filled with magical folk, marital abuse, marital rape, and a new magical world and it’s a bit of a confused mess. There are too many plots, and it’s not that they’re bad plots, but none of them are given enough time to breathe.
Instead of watching Mitch deal with the realization that the man he let guilt-trip him into moving in with him is an abusive, controlling monster, we have to watch as he discovers the shifter secret, the missing ex-lovers, the kids, the twin brother, the missing blanket, the non-consensual sex, and a handful more secrets even before Mitch begins having feelings for someone. And it just keeps going, and going and going and even when you get to the end, there’s no moment given to accept or even understand what happened. Mitch is just as ready to wipe his hands of it as he was to move in with Stan in the first place.
The characters are paper-thin because more attention feels given to moving them along from one point to the next and I never had a feel for any of them. I will say, though, that the reason Mitch fell for Stan so quickly and so deeply is given an explanation, and I thought it was actually very clever. However, that’s the only real compliment I have for this book.
There a lot of sentences where the author is trying to convey something — or hint at something — but I felt as if I was given only half of the sentence, with the rest of it still being in the author’s head. For example,
Though I did feel intensely codependent with Stan, and for just one day with my ex, John Locke, right after he’d stolen my special blanket.
After having read the story, I understand this sentence, but placed where it is, phrased as it is, it’s clumsy and broke the flow of reading as I spent a good minute trying to figure out what it was trying to say.
In the end, nothing really felt like it mattered to Mitch, and nothing had any real weight or reason. Maybe future books from this author will have a better balance between characters and plot. Until then, I’d suggest passing on this book.