So, Andrea of The Little Red Reviewer and I did this buddy read together (so much fun!!), which means you’ll find the first half of our discussion on her site, which is where I’d advise you to start. If you’ve found your way over here from there, then hello and welcome!
How would you categorise this book, if at all?
Mayri: So this is my question, because it bothered me all the way through the book. On one hand, it’s a police procedural. On the other, a sort of Clive Barker-ish supernatural horror. I don’t even know how to categorise Layla and Cass’ social media storyline – although as you said in one of your emails Andrea, that could definitely have been a book in itself. At work it is consistently returned to our Crime Fiction shelves, but I feel that readers who pick it up expecting that will be disappointed and, given our older demographic, confused. I know labels don’t really matter, and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the procedural stuff and the supernatural stuff, but I wondered if you had any thought on this?
Andrea: Great question!!! Like, it advertises itself as a police procedural/serial killer thriller, but it’s not that, at all. I can totally see why someone who thought they were getting a crime novel would be confused and maybe angry. My dad enjoys thrillers, but this book would just piss him off – too many side plots, all the social media and tech stuff, too much supernatural. Labels are a pain in the butt, but bookstores and libraries need them. I guess if I had to categorize this, I’d call it a supernatural thriller with a hint of coming of age? But “coming of age” also has connotations that might turn people off to this book.
With so many labels blurring, what are libraries and bookstores to do?
Mayri: Just heap all the books together without any care for genre and watch the ensuing chaos!! Ha ha! It’ll make shelf-checks difficult for us, but maybe people will find something they never thought they’d read and I’m all for that! (It will also amuse me greatly *chuckle*).
This is a very book report-ish sort of question – but who do you think are the Broken Monsters of the title?
Mayri: I think everyone is. In the book, and out here in the real world too. Clayton’s creations are certainly broken and monstrous, but they’re like an outward display of what we all carry around with us. Every character in the book has been through their own personal wringer, and no one is all good or all bad. My favourite quote in the book was this:
“Everyone lives three versions of themselves; a public life, a private life and a secret life … we are different things to different people in different contexts.”
And every character’s story plays this truth out. A lot of the complications that arise from the use of social media come about because the lines between these three lives blur out here in the digital world.
And Layla’s very last chapter is kind of an answer to the question of how to handle being a broken monster in a world of broken monsters: “you have to find a way to live with it”.
Andrea: I agree with you, everyone. And yes, that quote sums up this book perfectly. Everyone has private secrets; everyone has things they don’t want people to learn. Maybe Clayton is the only person who is able to (gruesomely) be comfortable in letting his private secrets and private wants be public.
The social media aspects hit me pretty hard. It’s so easy to send your boyfriend a sexy picture of yourself, without even thinking what might happen to that picture. It’s so easy to just hit “share” on facebook. Social media (facebook mostly) has trained us to share everything. Share what you had for breakfast, share where you’re going on vacation, share the restaurant you’re at, share everything … but make everything look perfect for the internet. Share EVERYTHING except who you really are. It’s also really, really easy to find easily influenceable people online, people who will immediately trust you if you say the right things, if you tell them what they want to hear. I’m really happy I came of age when the internet was barely a thing. I feel bad for teenagers who are trying to navigate it now, I don’t know how they do it.
“Living with it” – I guess that’s how you know you’re not a kid anymore. You realize you can’t run from whatever it is, you can’t hide from it, so you better just learn to live with it. You better realize that these scary, weird, crappy experiences are what make you who you are. What’s that fun song that’s on the radio “a hundred bad days make a hundred bad stories, a hundred bad stories make me interesting at parties”. Layla just became the most interesting person in the world.