Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Monsters We Make - by Kali White

©Kali White
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌠

Don't talk to strangers. No means no. Find an adult. Sound familiar? These are just a few stranger-danger points passed on from parent to child everywhere. I don't even remember a time when stranger-danger wasn't at the top of every parent's mind. We fear for our children's safety, we fear for their lives. We do everything in our power to keep our children out of harm's way. But what if it isn't enough? What if strangers aren't the only ones for whom we should preach caution?

"The Monsters We Make" by Kali White is a poignant portrayal of life in the 1980s, of newfound fears, and a turning point for parents everywhere. While the book is loosely based on the real-life missing-person paperboy cases of Johnny Gosch, Eugene Martin, and Marc Warren Allen, White entwines their stories into her own fictitious tale. Her writing explores the life of another young boy facing impossible odds, his older sister chasing collegiate dreams, and an officer of the law just trying to do right by his family and the children of Iowa.

"The Monsters We Make" was all-consuming, from start to finish. I felt for the characters and became invested in their outcome. The narrations from the twelve-year-old paperboy Sammy, his eighteen-year-old sister (and aspiring journalist) Crystal as well as Officer Dale Goodkind, a Sergeant in the Crimes Against Persons department, brought upon some fairly deep reflections of my own. Typically I've run across books where the characters were within a similar age-group; however, reading Sammy's internal monologue at the mere age of twelve did something to me. My heart ached for him; he felt that he'd tried to reach out, to seek help, and, in his mind, he'd exhausted all options. Sammy was fearful and desperate. As a mother, that's truly heartbreaking. Alongside his voice were alternating chapters from a young woman just trying to find her way, make it to college, and better herself, all while helping take care of her little brother and overwhelmed mother. The sergeant's narrations were equally as important in their own way, exploring the effects of the job force on the individual, especially as it pertains to crimes against persons, and the particularly trying balance of work and life. How much should you share with your loved ones when the majority of your day is spent dealing with the unquestionably heinous aspects of human nature?

This snippet from the final chapter sums up a lot of my own (and I'm sure my mother's) feeling's quite well:

"If she got married and had a family someday, she tried to imagine what it would be like to raise children now, knowing what she knew, after everything she'd seen that could happen to children. She would never be able to let them walk to school alone, or go into public restrooms alone, or to the movies or the mall or the park without adult supervision. Lord only knew how it would eventually affect her generation as adults.

 Generation Paranoid.

There's not a day that goes by where I don't worry about my children, about their safety, health, and well-being. Call it paranoia if you will, I'll forever call it undying love. You never can be too careful. 

I would recommend "The Monsters We Make" to true crime fans and anyone interested in the goings-on of this time. Please keep in mind that crimes against children are at the forefront of this novel. I also feel that it's important to mention that while the ending may sit differently with each individual, I personally thought that it rather fitted the times and was, sadly, accurate to the nature of the topic. Kali White's latest work is one that I won't soon be forgetting.  

Thank you, @CrookedLaneBooks, @NetGalley, and the author, @KaliWriting, for providing me with a complimentary copy of "The Monsters We Make." I have voluntarily and honestly reviewed this title, rating it 4.5 stars. 

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Book Blurb:

For fans of Rene Denfeld and Shari Lapena comes a rich, atmospheric family drama set in the 1980's following the disappearances of two paperboys from a small midwestern town.

It's August 1984, and paperboy Christopher Stewart has gone missing.

Hours later, twelve-year-old Sammy Cox hurries home from his own paper route, red-faced and out of breath, hiding a terrible secret.

Crystal, Sammy's seventeen-year-old sister, is worried by the disappearance but she also sees an opportunity: the Stewart case has echoes of an earlier unsolved disappearance of another boy, one town over. Crystal senses the makings of an award-winning essay, one that could win her a scholarship - and a ticket out of their small Iowa town.

Officer Dale Goodkind can't believe his bad luck: another town and another paperboy kidnapping. But this time he vows that it won't go unsolved. As the abductions set in motion an unpredictable chain of violent, devastating events touching each life in unexpected ways, Dale is forced to face his own demons.

Told through interwoven perspectives--and based on the real-life Des Moines Register paperboy kidnappings in the early 1980's--The Monsters We Make deftly explores the effects of one crime exposing another and the secrets people keep hidden from friends, families, and sometimes, even themselves.

About the author, Kali White:

Kali White is the author of novels, short stories, essays, and articles. She's the recipient of an American Book Award and an Eric Hoffer Book Award among others. Kali is a core faculty member of the Lindenwood University MFA Creative Writing Program and lives in Iowa with her family.

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