There are trolls, goblins, and witches. Which kind of monster is Sophie?
Sophie is a monster expert. Thanks to her Big Book of Monsters and her vivid imagination, Sophie can identify the monsters in her school and neighborhood. Clearly, the bullies are trolls and goblins. Her nice neighbor must be a good witch, and Sophie’s new best friend is obviously a fairy. But what about Sophie? She’s convinced she is definitely a monster because of the “monster mark” on her face. At least that’s what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor. Sophie tries to hide it but it covers almost half her face. And if she’s a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside, too.
Being the new kid at school is hard. Being called a monster is even harder. Sophie knows that it’s only a matter of time before the other kids, the doctors, and even her mom figure it out. And then her mom will probably leave — just like her dad did.
Because who would want to live with a real monster?
“If I had a monster book, it would be a lot smaller. I think it’s the choices we make that make people monsters or not. It’s a choice, not a curse.” –Kelsey in A Monster Like Me
If I had to comp A Monster Like Me, I’d easily say Wonder (R.J. Palacio) meets Bridge to Terabithia. This book is a contemporary middle grade (magical realism) that, like Wonder, deals with a broken-hearted child. A child who only sees the ugly “monster mark” on her face and thinks that it means she’s a monster on the inside too.
Like Bridge to Terabithia, however, Sophie reminded me so much of Leslie with her constant imagination and her way of coping with her trauma through fantasy. She sees through every person that “thinks they’re human” and spies their “true selves”–like Leslie’s Ogres and Trolls in Bridge to Terabithia. The biggest difference is that while I’m pretty sure Leslie was playing (I’m doubting myself now because it’s been so long since I read that book) Sophie truly believes it. And as a reader, the one-liners that she says in innocent belief about herself being a monster will gut you.
The structure of the story is really cool. The chapters alternate between Sophie’s stories and her Big Book of Monsters, as a way of prefacing the next chapter. So instead of explaining the cultural histories or magical talents and horrors of the monsters Sophie recognizes in people she’s around, we get a neat chapter on that monster before Sophie’s chapter starts, so we know what she’s talking about when she says she “sees one”. And on that note, I want to add that most are mythological creatures/people (like Medusa, a Basalisk, Giants, etc) so there is some educational aspect about the mythologies and cultural beliefs contained in this book.
The main reason that I give it 4 stars instead of 5 is because the story resolution isn’t as strong as I would’ve liked to see in a child that suffered from understanding reality this intensely, nor was the message of “don’t judge people by how they look” near strong enough in the end for my taste. Sophie spent the entire book identifying every person she saw as one monster or another based solely on how they looked. This is why she identified herself as a monster too, so it was consistent with her nature, and though Kelsey (her mom’s boyfriend), helps her realize that who a person is is more than what they look like, I still didn’t feel like Sophie truly believed that in the end. I was hoping for the adults in her life, and the counseling, to help her through her fantasy world, but in the end, it felt as if they almost enabled it to continue. It wasn’t as impactful as I was hoping it would be.
Overall though, I did enjoy listening to A Monster Like Me on Audible and it helped me pass the workdays quicker. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.