DELICATE MONSTERS by Stephanie Kuehn
From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.
When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.
Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.
Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.
But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.
Interested in the book? Make sure to read our other features:
Q&A with Author Stephanie Kuehn at We Heart YA
Delicate Monsters: Further Reading + Giveaway! at The Reading Date
Reading Date: Hello! I managed to finish the book…yay!
We Heart YA: yay! Hopefully it didn’t add too much to your stress! I know it’s intense.
Reading Date: Yeah haha probably not what I needed but it was good! Gripping and intense.
We Heart YA: Haha I’m glad you liked it. Hopefully our Jan. or Feb. pick can be more light hearted.
Reading Date: Yes! Maybe for January we can do a year end wrap up though, or list the books we are excited to read for the year.
We Heart YA: Oh yeah, i think that was the plan.
Teen Lit Rocks: Hi, I’m here!
Reading Date: Did you get to finish the book? I just did today.
Teen Lit Rocks: Literally half an hour ago. I’m sort of a mess. This was an emotional pick for me to read just now.
Teen Lit Rocks: If anything the money made it easier for Sadie because they kept shipping her off to another school
Love the name Sadie Su, btw.
Reading Date: So we are both raw from the experience ☺
We Heart YA: I feel bad bc i kind of wanted to read it… Sorry y’all
Teen Lit Rocks: So I’m fairly emotional and stressed with end of year stuff, and this book was so tough; I wasn’t expecting “Gone Girl” type of psychopaths!
Reading Date: Yeah I wasn’t either. It was a challenging read.
We Heart YA: I thought of “Gone Girl” too!
Teen Lit Rocks: Or of “Dexter” sort of!
Reading Date: We need to follow up with a feel good read. Another “Simon” or something.
We Heart YA: Yes, good idea.
Reading Date: Should we jump in with first impressions? I thought this was chilling, gripping and intense. I had to take reading breaks!
We Heart YA: I thought it was really well written, super intense and mature and dark, but in a way that said something interesting and valuable about human nature.
Teen Lit Rocks: I read it in two sittings, but I had a visceral reaction to the parts about Sadie Su. She seemed so aware of her psychopathic tendencies and was so skilled at manipulating others. Definitely chilling.
Reading Date: Yes definitely agree. She was such a challenging character. I can see the author’s psychology background was put to good use here.
We Heart YA: (As opposed to just trying to be shocking.) See, I thought Sadie was easier than the other two, because she knew who she was and was straightforward about it.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, but that made her even scarier to me.
We Heart YA: Ah see, I think she knew her limits, so she didn’t scare me as much. One of the other characters, on the other hand… (I don’t want to spoil it)
Teen Lit Rocks: But you don’t really *know* what the deal is with Em for a long while.
Reading Date: She was scary but Emerson got to me more. It was really masterful the way the story played out.
We Heart YA: Yes, no tricks or lying, but layers peeled back slowly. And lots of examination of “good” vs “bad,” how they are defined, how they can intertwine.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, Emerson’s selective memory was fascinating. I found their childhood behavior so disturbing. I’m not even sure most 10 year old boys you know.
We Heart YA: I found it fascinating.
Teen Lit Rocks: I also thought the way she used sex and desire in the story was fascinating.
We Heart YA: Ooohhh yes!
Teen Lit Rocks: Like it was just a basic need for Sadie; she didn’t care so much who sated it. For Emerson, it was so much more complicated
We Heart YA: That caught me off guard, though. The maturity of that.
Teen Lit Rocks: Like that it could be his way of redemption but also his downfall. Lots of Jeffrey Dahmer sh*t right there. (sorry, that’s all I could think about)
Reading Date: It was very complex. Such interesting character studies. And the way it unravels I was on the edge of my seat. (Yup I could see that!)
Teen Lit Rocks: So lots going on. Definitely high school and up for this one.
We Heart YA: Yeah I was def thinking that as I read. Such masterful writing and character work, but not a book I can freely recommend in the same way as something more lighthearted like Rainbow Rowell.
Reading Date: Yeah agree. It’s very mature YA. I’m in love with the writing but this is not a book for everyone.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, I can see how she’s won awards before, and I’d like to read her other work.
We Heart YA: Me too.
Reading Date: After we read a couple fun reads 🙂
We Heart YA: Sarah (also from We Heart YA) said if we liked DELICATE MONSTERS, she highly recommends CHARM & STRANGE. (she has not read COMPLICIT so she couldn’t speak to that specifically).
Teen Lit Rocks: Good to know. Another hapa, Kristan!
We Heart YA: OH YES! I hadn’t realized going into the story that Sadie was going to be a halfie. There were a few lines about her heritage, but it was more connected to her relationship with her father — or lack thereof. And as ever, I had the strange complex dual reaction of wishing there were more about her background, and simultaneously being glad that it wasn’t really made a big deal of, it was just part of her.
We Heart YA: I don’t know about you guys, but I definitely spent a lot of the book wondering about Miles’s visions
And whether or not we were reading a partly paranormal story.
Reading Date: The mental illness portraits were way interesting, yes! And Miles omg… that poor kid.
We Heart YA: Again don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll say that I didn’t really see the ending coming (until the point where the author wanted us to, anyway). Clever storytelling in that aspect, I would say.
Teen Lit Rocks: Well… she certainly foreshadows it but then turns it around. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, but the writing is so strong.
Reading Date: Yes! There were a few breadcrumbs but I didn’t imagine how it would play out. I kind of want her to write Adult Fiction but I think I would also be too terrified to read it.
We Heart YA: LOL yep, her and Gillian Flynn create these horrifying stories, but in such un-put-downable ways
So, the ending…
Just skimming GoodReads, the ending seemed to be somewhat controversial
Some people hated the openness of it, some people didn’t feel it was open at all (ie, they felt it was clear how things were going to turn out), and some people did actually like it
I think I’m in the latter two camps — I didn’t LIKE it in the sense that it pleased me, but I didn’t feel unsatisfied, and I did feel like it was pretty clear what would naturally follow.
Teen Lit Rocks: So I think, to sum up, that this is a book that stays with you and kind of mind-f–ks you as the kids say. Great writing, but I’m not sure I want to reread it.
We Heart YA: haha, it’s def not a feel-good. but it was ambitious and powerful and well done
Reading Date: I can’t imagine rereading this one but it will stay with me! And I do want to explore the author’s other work.
We Heart YA: Me too!