“They were no longer human…” the cover of 1992 first edition of Christopher Pike’s Monster announces and indeed, they’re not! That cover, I should add, makes the book look a lot more light-hearted than it is. It makes it look like it’s some sort of sci-fi comedy about a demonically possessed football player when there’s actually very little about this book that could be considered light-hearted.
This book is dark. Like, seriously, dark.
It opens with popular high school student Mary Carlson walking into a party while carrying a shotgun. She blows away a football player named Todd and then a cheerleader named Kathy and then she points the gun at her own boyfriend, Jim. Fortunately, the new girl at school, Angela, manages to distract Kathy just long enough for Jim to take off running into the woods. Mary goes chasing after him but she gets arrested before she guns him down as well. It’s probably a good thing that Jim survived because, without him, how would the football team ever win another game? After all, the team sucked just last season before all of the players and the cheerleaders suddenly got super strong!
Anyway, Mary says that she was shooting her friends because they were no longer human and, according to her, the three of them have been picking up people and killing them in a warehouse. Police Lt. Nguyen doesn’t believe her but Angela feels a bit of an obligation to investigate Mary’s story. And really, it’s the least she can do considering that she promptly starts flirting with Jim right after Mary’s arrested.
It quickly becomes obvious that something strange has happened to all of the school’s athletes and cheerleaders. Maybe it has something to do with the mysterious crater from which the town gets its drinking water. Angela notices that Jim tends to eat everything in sight, including a raw hamburger. After she and Jim make out and she ends up getting some of his blood on her, she soon finds that she’s eating everything in sight. Is it possible that some sort of monster has not only taken over Jim but is now taking over Angela as well!?
Yes, it is. That’s bad news for Kevin, who is Angela’s BFF and who is totally in love with her even though she only views him as being a very good friend. Oh, poor Kevin! Kevin is one of the few wholly sympathetic characters in the book and he still ends up with a broken neck. Like I said, this book is dark!
It all ends on an appropriately dark note and I guess that’s the important thing. This book was written in 1992 and, at the time it was written, it was probably meant to be a metaphor about the dangers of having unsafe sex, as Angela is infected after fooling around with Jim. Reading it today, though, it feels more like a commentary on just unsafe school has become over the past decade. Mary Carlson, blowing away her friends because they’re “not human,” brings to mind so many recent gun-related tragedies. It’s a bit difficult to read.
Anyway, Monster is a seriously dark book but still an effectively macabre story. Nobody was as skilled at traumatizing young readers as Christopher Pike!