My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Monsterland is a young-adult horror novel that revolves around a theme-park where creatures like vampires, zombies, and werewolves are held in captivity for the amusement (and fear) of spectators. It sounds very similar to a certain dinosaur story written many years ago, which unlike this particular narrative, was extremely well-written and original.
Honestly, I found the concept to be rather interesting. I was expecting Monsterland to be a theme-park where these creatures would get paid to scare the living daylights out of the guests who attended, however. The actual premise was a bit different than that. In this universe, being a “vitality challenged,” or zombie, is an illness rather than the result of some scientific experiment gone wrong. People can be turned into vampires through sexual intercourse. Werewolves are infected through an exchange of bodily fluids, or getting bit. All of these people are captured in one form or another and dragged into Monsterland with the hopes of being “cured” of their ailments.
What disappointed me about this scenario is that when the true intentions of the theme-park come to light, everything else from that point on becomes horribly predictable. Now, predictability in a book isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it can be advantageous when used creatively, but in Monsterland it seemed that ingenuity not only took the backseat, but fell asleep in it. Within the first five chapters or so, it becomes flagrantly apparent who the big baddy is and what his real motives are behind this “humanitarian” project. There are a couple of characters within the pages that support this resident villain with great enthuse, and their point-of-views became a chore to trudge through as you ponder how they could possibly be so blind and ignorant?
One of the things that I did like about the novel was a facet that gets brought up very early on. If Zombieism is an illness, then does that make them any less human? Just because these “monsters” have a nature to them that makes them an intimidating and uncomfortable presence, does that detract from their humanity, making them less of a person, unlike you or I? This discussion of morality is the best part of the entire tale, but it only lasts for about ten minutes. It gets brought up and then briefly touched on here and there until it’s finale. This made me really sad. With further exploration, this single aspect could have given Monsterland an abundance of depth.
The character interaction was another feature that was inherently lacking. I felt like I was watching a terribly cheesy horror movie from the 80s. The cast had no fluidity whatsoever. The family interactions were dry and forced, while the conversations between the adolescent male protagonist, Wyatt, and his lady love interest was severely deficient of any level of chemistry. Jade, the woman of his dreams, has a boyfriend that’s she’s not interested in. I would have much preferred a different obstacle other than an uninteresting and overly protective, jock boyfriend. If there is an overrated YA trope that seriously needs retiring, that would be it.
As I mentioned earlier, the idea of Monsterland as a morally questionable institution amidst a fear-ridden society is really quite fascinating. An examination of how something like this would psychologically affect the people would have made for a fantastic reading experience. Yet, what I received in its stead was a dreadfully foreseeable, horror story about captivity gone wrong… and horrid characters. I’m giving this book two grunts out of five because I appreciate the concept, which was enough to make me want to give it a shot. I think that’s worth something!