The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

  • Title: The Monstrumologist
  • Author: Rick Yancey
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Year Published: 2009
  • ISBN: 1416984488
  • List Price: $18.99
  • Page Count: 448
  • Age Range: 13+
  • Genre: horror
  • Award(s): Printz Honor Book; more here.

Author information: Rick Yancey has written numerous titles for teens and adults. His website includes a biography about himself, links to all of his titles, contact information and appearance dates, and a link to his blog. His blog only has three posts, but all of them are from 2013, which means that it may just be a recent blog that is updated infrequently. One of the posts was a list of twelve things the reader didn’t know about the author. His website also includes his Twitter feed, which is updated regularly. His most recent posts have to do with the casting of a film adaptation of another of his YA novels, The Fifth Wave.

Reviews: Booklist, VOYA, and School Library Journal all gave this title positive reviews. All of these reviews talk about the compelling nature of the narrative and how well Yancey does horror and gore. Booklist also comments upon the strength of the portrayal of the relationship between Will Henry and Doctor Warthrop and the complexities that lie therein.  All of the reviews mentioned the sophistication of this novel that takes it beyond a traditional horror story, which VOYA echoes, saying “This book is perfect for readers who want their nightmares in a literary package.”

Readers annotation: Flesh-eating creatures threaten to consume the residents of Will Henry’s town. Is it too late to stop them?

Summary: Will Henry is an orphan who has been taken in by and apprenticed to Dr. Warthrop, a monstrumologist who employed his father for years. One night, a grave robber brings the Doctor the corpse of a woman being eaten by a monster called anthropophagi, and thus begins Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry’s search for information about the origin of the creatures as well as a quest to eradicate them. They discover that Dr. Warthrop’s father had the flesh-eating monsters brought over by boat, and that they escaped from their enclosure on the ship and killed the entire crew, save the captain who was subsequently committed to an asylum. The doctor and Will Henry, along with another monstrumologist and the local authorities, devise a plan to destroy the monsters, and spend a harrowing night fighting more than two dozen of the creatures. They follow the matriarch of the monster family into her den, where they are able to kill her and eradicate the threat of the creatures. Both Will Henry and the doctor survive the encounter, but others, including a teenage boy who had lost his family to the beasts, were not so lucky. The story concludes with the promise of further adventures.

Evaluation: I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. The writing style was long-winded and could drag at times, but this is mostly due to the conceit that the account was written by Will Henry, who grew up in the mid 1800s. In spite of the prose, the plot moved quickly and the action scenes were vivid and captivating. Yancey made both Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop into convincing, complex characters with troubled back-stories, and the reader relates to Will Henry and even sympathizes with the trials that the doctor has been through and pities him for his difficult childhood. The anthropophagi are revolting and terrifying, making this one of the most spine chilling books I’ve encountered in a long while. Because of the frequency of violence and gore, this title may not appeal to more sensitive readers. The resolution of the conflict is satisfying but leaves room for further stories about Will Henry, which readers will be eager to pick up.

Rating and appeal factors:

  • Quality: 4/5  This book was suspenseful and fast-paced, and the characters were complex and well developed. The prose occasionally becomes cumbersome, but this is easily forgivable.
  • Popularity: 3/5 This book may be too macabre and violent for some readers, as there is quite a bit of death and gore throughout the novel. Readers who enjoy more sinister books will find this to be delightfully spine-chilling and a gripping read.
  • Appeal factors: monsters, violence, supernatural horror.

Read-alikes: 

  1. Readers who can’t get enough of flesh-eating monsters will love Demitria Lunetta’s In the After. This story follows Amy, a survivor of an apocalyptic infestation of creatures, as she fights for her life and her freedom.
  2. Rotters by Daniel Kraus is another good pick for readers of the macabre. Unlike Yancey’s book, Rotters does not delve into the supernatural, rather it focuses on a teenage boy who begins to learn his father’s trade of grave-robbing. The dark and disturbing tone of the novel nicely matches that of The Monstrumologist.

Book talk ideas: Start by asking readers, with a show of hands, how many of them like scary stories. Ask if any of them watch popular shows like The Walking Dead or like movies such as World War Z. Let them know if they enjoy their stories with a lot of violence and gore, this is the perfect series for them. Explain that The Monstrumologist deals with a strange creature called the anthropophagi, who feed exclusively on humans, and the fact that Will Henry and his mentor have found a colony in their small town. If they are unable to stop the monsters, untold numbers of people will die.

Discussion questions/ideas:

  1. How do you think Dr. Warthrop really feels about Will Henry?
  2. Are the anthropophagi evil, or are their eating habits just part of their nature? Who or what is truly evil in this story?
  3. Why does Will Henry stay with Dr. Warthrop?
  4. The novel is framed as the journal of Will Henry, found upon his death. How does this impact the understanding of the novel?

Reason for reading: I took a teen materials class last year, and this title was on my list of books I wanted to read but wasn’t able to get around too. I think I had mistakenly believed it would be slow paced–from what I had read of the description it seemed to be in the same vein as Frankenstein, which, while a great read, also requires a mental commitment that I wasn’t ready for at the time. I checked this book out over a month ago and couldn’t get past the first ten pages, but when I revisited it two days ago, I finished the whole novel.

Additional relevant information: There are currently four books in the Monstrumologist series, the most recent of which, The Final Descent, was published in September of 2013. There have also been talks of a movie version of the first book being created.

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