Tuesday, September 7, 2021

ARC Review: Small Town Monsters by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Title: Small Town Monsters
Series: n/a
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Horror; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Underlined; September 7, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Conjuring meets The Vow! This terrifying paperback original tells the unputdownable story of a girl, a dark angel, and the cult hellbent on taking over her small, coastal town. 
Vera Martinez wants nothing more than to escape Roaring Creek and her parents' reputation as demonologists. Not to mention she's the family outcast, lacking her parents' innate abilities, and is terrified of the occult things lurking in their basement. Maxwell Oliver is supposed to be enjoying the summer before his senior year, spending his days thinking about parties and friends. Instead he's taking care of his little sister while his mom slowly becomes someone he doesn't recognize. Soon he suspects that what he thought was grief over his father's death might be something more...sinister. When Maxwell and Vera join forces, they come face to face with deeply disturbing true stories of cults, death worship, and the very nature that drives people to evil.

Small towns make for great settings. Some of my recent favorite reads have been set in small towns. Including but not limited to cozy mysteries, middle grade horror, cosmic horror, and thrillers. Small Town Monsters is set in a small coastal town, and what a great story it was. It was part coming of age tale and partly about small town secrets, the danger of assumptions, community tragedy, grief, and cults. Oh, and a strong paranormal element that seemed to be the stuff of nightmares.

The story followed Vera Martinez, whose parents are demonologist. I sympathized with Vera. Her parent’s reputation had a negative effect on her and how she was perceived by people, while she also felt like the black sheep of the family. Part of the story dealt with how she grappled with that and came into her own as a person, while trying to untangle the mystery of the odd occurrences that were happening in her seemingly idyllic hometown. And it was done so well. Then there was Maxwell Oliver, who, despite his best efforts to hold his family together, is ultimately forced to seek help from Vera. He was a well written character, and I liked how much he looked out for his little sister. But everyone has a breaking point, and at the beginning of the story, he had already reached his.

The situation presented a bit of a mystery—and that was good too—but where the book shined was the horror elements. Wallach was clearly inspired by The Conjuring films and Ed and Lorraine Warren when writing Small Town Monsters. Elements of the story pulled a lot of inspiration from it, particularly with a basement full of objects with spooky and downright dangerous and creepy origins. Beyond the real world inspiration, the story ultimately goes down its own path.

Overall, Small Town Monsters delivered on everything the synopsis promised it would be. I sped through it in a couple days, and by the end, I wanted a sequel. And, like I said above, it was a great story. So if you’re looking for something to add to your October reading lists, Small Town Monsters would fit the bill.

About the author....
Diana Rodriguez Wallach is a multi-published author of young adult novels. Diana is a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, and she teaches Creative Writing Workshops in inner-city schools throughout the Philadelphia area through the nonprofit organization, Mighty Writers. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two kids. Her most recent, Small Town Monsters, is a YA Latinx horror novel that will publish in Fall 2021 through Random House’s Underlined imprint. Additionally, Diana is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series (Entangled Publishing), a trilogy of young adult spy thrillers. The first book in the series, Proof of Lies, has been optioned for film and was chosen as a finalist for the 2018 International Thriller Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Additionally, Bustle listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017,” and Paste named Proof of Lies one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Diana is also the author of three YA contemporary Latina novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books). Amor and Summer Secrets placed second at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. She also penned a YA short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Underlined) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

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