Monday, June 26, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad

Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages: 400
Publishing:   September 13th, 2023
Source:  Netgalley

Opening Line:  Dare Coates was an awful girl."  

Everyone in Barrow's Bay has always said that she's an awful girl.  She's even being setup to be the monster for Founders Day, when she'd rather be playing Louise, even though Louise doesn't get saved in time.   Dare is perfectly happy not being considered as one of the "good" people.  Her dad is the Captain of the Guard, chief monster hunter.  Although everyone says that the monsters are all gone, killed off.  Yet, Dare senses it's not true.  Especially, when her father is killed while on patrol and the governor tries to pass off his death as an encounter with a thief.  He even gets her mom to marry him and now she's being shipped off to a great aunt on the mainland.  How is she to uncover the truth now?

Once at her aunt's, Dare is shocked to learn of the difficulties that her aunt's theater is having, and she then becomes immersed in a local Palace of Wonders whose owner knew her father.  The city is very different from her previous life on the island.  It's corrupt, loud, crowded and both dirty and cold.  The primary means of income are its factories which don't pay a fair wage and are ruining the air quality in the city.  It's here she meets Nell, a young girl performer her age and Gil, a mysterious boy who comes and goes helping Dare on her search for answers.  The story has lots of twists and turns as Dare navigates the city.  She's also faced with many troubling truths.  And more questions, like did her father infiltrate Tupper's gang (a sailor she met from her voyage across to the mainland), and for what purpose?  Meanwhile, monsters continue to haunt Dare's dreams and theirs a lingering stench in the city that she can't explain.  When Dare goes to a Millinery shop, she's awakened to the question whether the creatures she's seen are monsters or marvels.

Dare is considered an awful girl, but she's very proud of that distinction.  She's clever, decisive, willful, and maybe a little judgmental but she loved her father with all her heart.  His death has left a huge hole.  When she comes to learn that the story's she's been told don't match the facts around her, she's left questioning her father, Tupper and even Gil and Nell.  When they try to be nice to her, she can't figure out why? I enjoyed the message of the story, to question things and seek out your own answer's.  To not except things at face value and just because something is told over and over it doesn't make it true.  This a lovely story with its themes about social inequality, labor exploitation, environmental degradation and commentary on endangered species.    

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE


  1. I really enjoyed The Verdigris Pawn. I didn't know she had a new book out but it sounds good. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds like a powerful book! Some deep themes and an interesting sounding plot. I hadn't heard of it before. Thanks for sharing. :) ~Jess

  3. This one is on my reading list, so I am really glad to hear the things you enjoyed. I think this is one I'll really like. Sounds like it tackles some complex emotional ideas and has a lot of fun elements. :) Thank you for your review!

  4. This sounds like an excellent read, Brenda! Dare sounds like an intriguing protagonist—I can imagine it takes a lot of strength to endure the kind of judgment she's been through. And the themes like labor exploitation are definitely nuanced—I haven't seen a ton of discussion of those topics in MG books before. Thanks so much for the thoughtful review!

  5. The themes you mentioned are a real draw for me to read this book. I'd never heard of the novel but have now added it to my future read list.Thanks for being a part of the MMGM family this week!

  6. Wow. There is a lot going on in this book. It sounds like a fun read. Thanks for your very thorough review.