Cover Image: Making Friends With Monsters

Making Friends With Monsters

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Member Reviews

Most middle grade fiction does not approach such big ideas with such such straightforward, brutal honesty. There is no delicate dancing around the desperation and depression involved here, the high stress levels and destruction of relationships and the situation devolves and the drought continues. This family gets hit with one bad thing after another and can see no way out of the increasingly deep hole. It's a brutally honest book which means it is likely to be too much for some young readers. It's a book I would want to discuss with a kid after they read it to make sure they were able to deal with the realities it discusses.
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Triple threat (plot, character, and theme driven) page turner takes place in a rural, drought stricken Australia which has decimated the water supply, and subsequently disrupted both livelihoods and lives of all in the area.  Sam Nolen's family is a case in point.  Not only are they trying to survive the drought with extreme measures,  tragedy is always around the corner, and with each trauma, the “monsters” get a little more out of control. Everyone has a monster, and  they either help you get through the rough patches,  or it can take over your life with negativity. The goal is to to decide if the monster controls you, or you control it. This is one of the best books I've read which features  a contemporary modern family trying to  suppress past secrets while suffering ongoing tragedy. Characters  in the community are well drawn, and offer inspiration on the taming of one's monster 
Thank you to Pinkus Books and NetGalley for the digital arc.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

I am tough on reviewing books star-wise, I feel. And I gave this book 4 stars. In just 198 pages, this book sucked me in within the first 50 pages. I finished it in 1.5 days. It's a super easy read, but very intellectual in relation to mental health, and well-written. It doesn't matter if you don't come from Australia, you can still read the book and understand all the nuances, which I appreciate as I have a hard time focusing while reading, as I have ADHD. It is easy for me to lose interest in a book if its too complicated to read.

I would definitely add this book to my physical collection, and recommend you do as well. Holy plot twist batman.

#netgalley #makingfriendswithmonsters #sandralrostirolla
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Making Friends With Monsters is an intense and deeply feeling YA novel. While the novel initially focuses on a seemingly anxious 12 (almost 13!) year-old Sam Nolen, it quickly begins to show that nearly everyone around him is wading through the murky waters of mental health challenges. 

Rostirolla packs a lot of emotion into this novel. You feel helpless as a reader as you watch Sam and his family struggle through multiple traumas and setbacks. It took me longer than I expected to finish - I needed breaks with something a little more lighthearted. 

Making Friends With Monsters is ultimately a story of resilience and forgiveness. There are several mature themes throughout, so I would carefully recommend this to YA readers. Thank you to NetGalley and Pinkus Books for and eARC in exchange for my honest review.
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For a novel that tries to bring to life the difficulty people face in mantaining "mental health" when everything goes wrong for them, this one is much better written than most. Sam, Ben, Abby, and their parents could almost be drawn from life, even though the author specifically says that her family's story of mental problems was different. Early teen readers can probably relate to Sam...though it may put some of them off reading the book if they're warned that, fairly early in the book, Sam loses his right hand.

Almost everything that happens in this story needs a content warning. At the beginning, when Abby's pet lamb dies, we learn that Sam's family sheep farm has had several low-yield years; Sam's mother worries, when Sam's father leaves taking his gun, that he's thinking about suicide rather than hunting. It turns out later that she's projecting her own feelings onto her husband. In a country renowned for the high median level of alcohol tolerance, Sam's mother appears to be alcohol intolerant. Sam doesn't realize at first that that's why Ben has become so disagreeable...having noticed how much more he resembles his mother's brother-in-law than he does the man he and Sam have always called father. Sam is trying to ease little Abby around the rough edges their elders all seem to have developed when he falls into the moving machinery and wakes up in a hospital. When Ben commits suicide and his girlfriend turns up pregnant, and Sam starts to understand what was on Ben's mind, their mother doesn't *only* attempt suicide. Her part-time job for years has involved sitting with a patient who's hoarded a suicide kit of three pills, and one evening when Sam's father is out she mixes the pills into the "cordials" she serves herself, Sam, and Abby, but luckily one pill is only enough to make an adult ill, and Sam and Abby are feeling too sad to drink theirs. And Sam's girlfriend, though in no danger of being pregnant, reveals that she's a cutter.

What's not to like, if you're prepared to like a story that presents so much distress, is that the story ends where a better story about these characters might begin. They're still only talking about their emotions. I'd like to see them move through their emotions and take some action to change those facts of their real live that are subject to change. There are many good, true stories about people who've moved past the "monsters" of emotional misery and had inspirational lives, but although no biography of Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, or dozens of other famous people could leave out the horrors of their early lives, nobody else seems even to have tried to integrate tortured childhood, early struggles, and success story like Maya Angelou.
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First, thank you NetGalley and Pinkus Books for the eARC.

For me, this book is fascinating. The way Monsters talk about some mental health themes here is excellent. Originally, I thought as a non-English native speaker, I would have a hard time reading this. But, it's not! I enjoyed this book a lot even tho I need a longer time.

This book is gripping from the beginning. I really recommend this book!
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In a Nutshell: Almost brilliant! A couple of things didn’t work well for me, but on the whole, this is a hidden indie treasure, albeit a somewhat emotional and depressing one. Better suited to the older YA segment and adults. Triggers galore: Reader discretion advised. 

Story Synopsis:
2006. Tamworth, Australia. Twelve-year-old Sam Nolen’s life isn’t a happy one. His family farm has been affected by the ongoing drought, and the resultant stress has created a lot of monsters in the family. His dad has one, his seventeen-year-old brother Ben has one, and sometimes, even his six-year-old sister Abby has her own little monster. Sam tried his best to keep track of all the monsters and even writes on about what he has learnt about monsters, all so that he can help his family. However, there is soon a devastating accident, and Sam discovers that he too has a monster of his own. 
The story comes to us in Sam’s limited first person perspective.

I don’t even know where to begin showering praise on this YA work. I loved almost everything about it, right from its purpose to its writing to its character development to its scenic descriptions.

The purpose: The author’s introductory statement (which brought tears to my eyes) sets the right tone for the book. She mentions how her father had killed himself when she was thirteen, and how this led to her growing up amid dysfunction. The idea behind this book is to offer young readers a way of understanding mental health issues, euphemistically called ‘monsters’ in this book. Most of the content makes me feel that she nailed the agenda.

The writing: Not once did I feel that I was reading an indie work. Sam’s first person narration is endearing. You can sense his vulnerabilities and his determination at the start, and can sense the slow change in his perspective to anger and resentment. 

The characters: Every single Nolen was written in a way that brought them alive. From the frustration of the father, the desperation of the mother, the rebelliousness of Ben, the unflinching optimism of little Abby, and of course the anxious sensitivity of the narrator Sam, the sketching was wonderful. There’s no way you will complete this book without loving Abby with all your heart. There are a few memorable secondary characters as well.

The setting: This gem showed me a side of Australia I have not often read in fiction and brought it vividly alive. The impact of the drought in the rural area of Tamworth is portrayed in a gut-wrenching yet relatable way. 

The themes: Mental health is the key focal area of the story, and the author makes good use of this in multiple ways. Sam’s “notes” about the monsters are brilliant and simplistic, and I am sure they will offer all of us (and not just YAs) a unique way of looking at our inner demons. I’ve read many MG/YA books covering mental health, and this is among the very best.

The cover art and the title: Both brilliant. Both perfectly suitable for the story. 

Does this mean that the book was perfect in every way? Well, you know me. I always have at least one complaint. 😉 This time, I have two complaints, a major one and a minor one.
Major issue: I knew the book had triggers, and the author does warn about it right at the start, but I think it went too far in collecting traumatising topics. It was almost like the author had a checklist and with every subsequent chapter, the items on the list were getting ticked. [Spoilers till the end of this para: With mental health being the main theme, I expected and found drug abuse, alcohol abuse, medical trauma, self-harming, suicide and other triggers related to the core idea. But even beyond these, the book ventures into illegitimacy, pre-marital pregnancy, (discussed) abortion, (possible) rape, amputation, bullying, assault, and a few more unrelated but difficult topics. By the end, my head was reeling with the extent of devastation faced by one family within the span of a few months.]
Minor issue: There are a few scenes in the book where Sam is made to narrate thoughts I didn’t find appropriate. Lines like “Her two perfect breasts swing like happy melons in a hammock” don’t look good coming from a sensitive twelve-year-old. Yes, boys that age might start thinking about women and breasts, and it might be accurate and all that, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, right? 
That’s it. No other issues. If you are okay with the overabundance of traumatic events in the book, then this would be a brilliant work offering a novel perspective of the mental health monsters within us. The nature of the content makes me push the recommended age to 16+, though our narrator is only 12.

4.5 stars, which I am rounding down because of my reservations about the excessive negative triggers and the needless sexist content. The characters and the ‘monster’ idea makes the book worthwhile.

My thanks to Pinkus Books and NetGalley for the DRC of “Making Friends With Monsters”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

The book is available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
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Making Friends with Monsters by Sandra L. Rostirolla

Living through year upon year of drought in rural Australia is taking its toll on the Nolen family. Sam worries that his dad won’t be able to handle the pressure of seeing his sheep farm fail. He’s also got his older brother to worry about because he’s not acting like himself and keeps storming out of the house. 

“Fact #1 about Monsters: most people don’t know they exist.”

As Sam starts to discover the truth about the monsters each of us holds within us, he succumbs to the destructive power of his own monster. He can’t stop his brother from leaving and, after an accident that leaves him wounded and angry, there’s not much he can do to help his dad either. What he doesn’t realise at first is that some monsters are very good at staying hidden right up until the moment they tear everything apart. 

With several traumatic twists, this is a story that is guaranteed to keep you hooked, while also tackling some pretty difficult topics. Rostirolla opens the book with a message to readers and parents explaining that the story deals with themes of grief, suicide, and physical and emotional trauma. Though darkness abounds, the light is powerful enough to shine through. 

“Meaning, it’s okay to be sad, or nervous, or shy, or scared, or angry, or any of the hundreds of ways of being most of us would rather not be.” 

Sam is a relatable character; a boy at the start of his teen years with so many ‘normal’ problems to deal with alongside the really big stuff. Young readers of Sam’s age will feel a strong connection to him. An amazing book for developing empathy and understanding of topics that can affect us all. 

Librarian lowdown:
Suicide is discussed implicitly throughout but in a sensitive and empowering way
Also discussed are drugs, overdoses, alcohol, violence, death, mental health issues, trauma, abortion
KS3+ but make young readers aware of specific triggers

Thank you to NetGalley UK, Pinkus Books and Sandra L. Rostirolla for the digital ARC.
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Thank you to NetGalley for access to this title in exchange for a honest review!

For a majority of this book, these characters experience things such as loss and just heavy themes in general that felt me unsure where this story was going to end up. After about 70% through though, I started understanding the direction the author had in mind and I had a better mindset going forward. I would say to definitely look into content warnings to be sure you’re prepared for what this book has in store and I can say I appreciated the author writing this and sharing it for others to experience.
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Aimed at Middle Grade/YA readers, this book has been on my mind since I finished reading it last night. We all have a monster - be it guised as anger, jealousy, depression, anxiety or any other negative emotion - it lives inside of us and can take control at times when we feel we are failing. 12-year-old Sam opens his world to us - a farming family in Australia that has suffered badly due to the long ongoing drought. Each member of his family is suffering quietly, their dysfunction is obvious. Sam wants nothing more than to have his older brother, Ben, back. Ben's monster has all but consumed him, bringing more strain to the already heavily burdened family. As tragedy after tragedy strikes, Sam learns more about the monster that is trying to control him and how to take steps to beat it back inside. This will stir a lot of emotions; it’s so well written and so very important in today’s world – for parents and children.
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Because of my own background, I found this a very difficult but compelling read. I am so glad that I read it and was impressed by the sensitivity of the author. A book that needs to be read and discussed.
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Wow! I read this book in one sitting and am exhausted from the emotional ride. This was a powerful story that covered a lot of areas of trauma that are likely to be triggering for some. However, it was also a story of hope, love, friendship and the power of compassion and acceptance. 

This novel tells, from the point of view of a 12 year old boy named Sam, how to try to understand and accept a myriad of events that can happen in life, and the range of emotions that come with them. 

I enjoyed the story, the writing, and especially some of the characters that added joy to the book, like Mike, Leesa, and Snoopy. Snoopy is my favorite character of all of the books I have read so far this year. 

Although written for teens, this book is something that parents should read as there are some good suggestions for how kids can be taught about their own “monsters”.

Thank you to #NetGalley for an eARC of #MakingFriendsWithMonsters by #SandraLRostirolla in exchange for an honest review. - 5 stars as this book will stay with me for a long time
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Rural Australia, 2006. Sam Nolen is filled with misery. With a drought ruining his family’s farm and his older brother moody and distant, the sensitive twelve-year-old wishes he knew how to make his loved ones happy. But when the loyal preteen is left to help his dad after his older sibling storms out, Sam’s world shatters when he suffers a terrible accident.

Struggling to recover and feeling like a freak, the imaginative boy discovers an inner monster whispering dark thoughts in his mind. And when he learns the seductive joy of hiding behind his anger, he starts following his family down a self-destructive path.

Can Sam find his own way out of the shadows before they become all-consuming?

Firstly, let me just say wow! What a book that hit my heart in a million places and left me utterly distraught yet impassioned. Rostirolla compassionately yet unapologetically deals with sensitive issues that I know are close to her own heart as well as many others and this book left me in tears, angry, but most importantly… heard.

Sam is a typical teenager that traverses one difficult and horrid situation after another whilst all the while commenting and offering an insight to his ‘monster’ and the impact that his and others’ monsters have on his life. The monster metaphor is the perfect way of creating a voice for those innermost feelings we all have and a witty way of trying to explain and come to terms with why we feel or react the way we do in certain situations and I loved it! 

Dealing with issues such as grief, injury, suicide, poverty and many other taboo issues normally reserved for an older audience, Rostirolla has created a novel that expresses the feelings we all have felt  and sadly situations many of us have often experienced in a way that is not only accessible to a younger audience, but is neither patronising or diluted. 

This book is a must read for all, kids, teenagers and parents alike and I couldn’t applaud it enough. The sincerity and empathy that covers the pages of this novel whilst dealing with such difficult and heart rending issues is remarkable.
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I believe that, without any doubt, it’s one of the most special and necessary readings I ever read. 
This book addresses topics that may be sensitive to some people, so I don’t recommend reading it if you’re having a hard time with mental health, such as: how we manage our negative emotions, how living in a broken family can affect children, the grief, overcoming a major loss, or the importance of talking to someone who is going through the same thing to help heal.
And the best thing is that, despite doing so from the perspective of a twelve-year-old, not only treats the issue with the seriousness it deserves, but exposes it in a simpler way that manages to make you reach reflections that from an adult point of view it costs more to think. 
As I said, it deals with serious issues, but it does not take it to joke, it simply simplifies the reasoning. I was afraid that I would treat all this badly, but I’m glad to be able to say that was not the case at all.
A reading that, although short, I recommend reading little by little to enjoy it 100%. The author’s pen has had a lot to do, I want to follow closely his next works.
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The authors's note at the beginning, was useful in preparing the reader about the content of the book.
Using the term 'monster' to encapsulate emotions and behaviours, is a gentler way to explore really overwhelming emotions and topics. 
Rating the book seems wrong because this is someone's reality and no number of stars can capture the extent of what other readers may feel, nevertheless here are 5⭐️s and more! 
This is a powerful book that should be read by all ages. 
Thanks NetGalley for an advance copy.
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Thank you Netgalley for the advance reader copy of Making Friends With Monsters by Sandra L. Rostirolla in exchange for an honest review. There is a warning at the beginning of this book that it deals with death and might be hard for some readers, I thought I would try anyways. It was hard for me to read, my mom died a year ago and it has been really hard to handle. This is a well written book and I will read it again later when the grief isn't so fresh.
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Making Friends with Monsters is a timely tale of how to take back control of your social emotional health.  I was not in the mainframe to read this book when I did.  However, after a few weeks, I think I will be in more of a place to really think about what was being said.  I think it would appeal to my students, though, many of whom are going through their own difficulties coming out of a pandemic and dealing with an ever increasingly violent world.
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Making Friends With Monsters by Sandra L. Rostirolla lays it all out in the foreward on why she wrote this story. There are specific content warnings/ themes including mental health, suicide, and family dysfunction. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish this book. It was too depressing for me at this time. Thanks to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association for the ARC.
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Making Friends With Monsters is a great YA book about a kid dealing with traumatic issues and the depression and family dysfunction that surround him.  It takes a really interesting look at mental illness by having the main character see it as Monsters.  He decides to write down everything he knows about them as he goes along. The characters are strong and you generally feel for them, I especially liked the relationship between Sam and the biker, Snoopy.  The plot was very well written and I found myself reading it in one sitting, I just had to find out what happened next.  It is very sad at times and empowering at others.  This book is really special and I think that everyone, both kids and adults, can get something out of it.  Fantastic book with a great cover.
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I loved that this book was set in Australia! I think it makes this story unique. The way this story discusses mental illness (everyone has a monster) is easy to understand and perfect for middle grade readers. The twists regarding Ben's story were unexpected and kept me engaged with the text.
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