28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond, 272 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/23/2014

Billy Dean is a special child. He is born on a day of death and destruction, when bombs nearly destroyed the small town of Blinkbonny. He is the only life that came out of that dreadful day. Billy’s world consists entirely of a small attic room with locks on the door. His mother, a beautiful hairdresser, is his only contact with the outside world. She teaches him nearly everything he knows. Billy’s father only comes around from time to time, smelling of incense, candles and cigarettes. When his father does come around, he tells Billy strange and confusing tales. One day, his father leaves and does not return. Billy’s mother decides it is finally time to bring Billy out into the world.
At the age of 13, Billy sees the world for the first time and is both frightened and entranced. There are only two other people who are aware of Billy’s origins: the woman who helped birth him, Misses Malone and the local butcher, with whom Billy’s mother has been having a relationship. As it turns out, Misses Malone has plans for Billy that involve talents Billy is unaware of possessing. It begins with Billy being used as a medium to help connect survivors with their lost loved ones. It escalates into healing the sick. Billy is treated as an angel, with everyone from miles around coming to town for his blessing. Billy isn’t so sure and suspects that he may actually be the monster that his father once told him he was. He isn’t even sure about his own abilities. He’s fairly certain that he’s not who everyone else seems to think he is.
David Almond’s newest is definitely a challenging read. The entire book is narrated by Billy whose spelling can only be described as phonetic. Billy’s story is unusual and the particulars are revealed incrementally. This is likely going to be one of those books that readers either love or hate. I doubt there’s much middle ground. I, for one, found this to be a strangely compelling tale, the likes of which I haven’t come across in YA literature very often. Appeal may not be broad, but for more sophisticated readers, this will be a fascinating and rewarding read.

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