Review by Booklist Review
Shortly after moving from Seattle to his father's hometown of Merritt, Florida, Virgil Knox, 15, is attacked by a monster. Barely clinging to his sanity and bleeding copiously from his injuries, he makes his way to a parking lot and collapses. In spite of his wounds, however, people either don't believe him, laugh at him, or say he asked for it by walking alone in a deserted area at night, and when he starts school, the pranks and teasing are nonstop. Virgil relives the attack at the slightest trigger, but all anyone tells him is to get over it. Virgil has more to worry about, however; he wonders whether he will become a monster as well. Hutchinson is known for offbeat, edgy books, and this is no exception. Convincing, well-rounded characters come to life in Hutchinson's lyrical, punchy writing, and his skills for maintaining suspense and intrigue mean the story never drags. There are echoes of a werewolf story here, but Virgil's experiences after the monster attack mirror the treatment of victims of sexual assault, which adds a dynamic level to the story. As Virgil starts to make connections in his new home, from irrepressible classmate Tripp to his seemingly dour grandmother, he realizes that he has more choices than he thought. Hutchinson never misses a beat in this gripping, thought-provoking novel.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
After Virgil Knox's parents separate, the queer 15-year-old and his father leave Seattle for Merritt, Fla., where they move in with Knox's paternal grandparents. Before school starts, Virgil attends a party at which the mayor's jock son, Jarrett Hart, tries to kiss him. When Virgil rebuffs his advances, citing a boyfriend back home, Jarrett claims he was just messing with Virgil and swears him to secrecy: "I ain't no homo." Virgil blacks out shortly thereafter, coming to in a nearby swamp where he is attacked by a monster. Bitten, scratched, and bloody, he limps to town, where nobody believes his tale. The cops dismiss him, his family blames him and tells him to stop talking about it, and his classmates bully him relentlessly. Virgil begins to spiral, equal parts scared that the monster will return and that he will become one himself. Though the mystery is imperfectly executed, Hutchinson (Before We Disappear) makes clever use of metaphor to illustrate the trauma and stigma that can follow survivors of sexual assault. Virgil's first-person narration is relatable and sincere, the vividly sketched characters--most of whom cue white--are realistically flawed, and Hutchinson writes with poignancy, urgency, and compassion. Ages 14--up. Agent: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary. (Apr.)
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Review by Horn Book Review
Hutchinson's latest offering (The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, rev. 3/19; Before We Disappear, rev. 11/21) is another engaging blend of realism with fantasy and absurdity. Bleeding profusely from the wounds of a monster attack, Virgil Knox staggers into the small town of Merritt, Florida, where he and his father have recently moved after his parents' divorce. Gradually, we learn that Virgil has attended a party, rebuffed a sexual advance from the mayor's son, blacked out, and come to in the swamp, where he is attacked. Despite the physical evidence, nobody believes him about the supernatural encounter -- not the police, his family, or his classmates. The gaslighting takes a toll on Virgil, who worries that the creature may come back -- or that he will turn into a monster himself. Hutchinson is an accomplished storyteller, drawing readers in with Virgil's narrative voice, an appealing mix of angst and insouciance; the small-town Florida setting; memorable secondary characters including Virgil's paternal grandmother and a theater classmate; and a plot that slowly unravels its mystery. The monster attack is a clear metaphor for sexual assault (see also Arnold's Red Hood, rev. 5/20) and, in its aftermath, for victim-blaming, proving once again that Hutchinson is not afraid to explore the darker corners of the adolescent experience. Jonathan Hunt July/August 2022 p.123(c) Copyright 2022. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Virgil Knox, a gay 15-year-old, has recently moved with his father from bustling Seattle to the small town of Merritt, Florida, following his parents' divorce. New to town, Virgil attends a party at popular jock Finn's house and, during the course of the evening, somehow finds himself out in the sprawl, a wooded swamp that most of the town avoids, being attacked by a monster. The monster leaves physical scars on Virgil's body, but the mental and emotional scars are far more severe. Although even when they're acknowledged, they're treated as trivial by Virgil's grandparents, his father does help him get into therapy. With support from theatrical classmate Tripp, his cousin Astrid, and popular student Jarrett and his entourage, Virgil sets out to prove that the monster exists...and that it's closer to home than anyone might imagine. The story sets out with lofty ambitions, using the monster attack as a metaphor for sexual assault and the victim-blaming that, disgustingly, often happens afterward. The novel, however, falls short of those ambitions, creating a world of underdeveloped characters whose motivations and actions seem to exist only to further Virgil's story. Astute readers will easily follow the trail of clues that lead to the denouement, leaving the mystery an anticlimax. Main characters read as White. An interesting concept disappointingly executed. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.