Hollow City by Beth Connor
A YA Dystopia Novel published by FriesenPress (09/08/21)
First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC
“She too was a monument of sorts; the lurking Beast that roamed the cemetery at nights and was enough to keep any of the curious kids from wandering in.” Page 8.
Zooey, as a Beast, has a natural talent for digging graves. She lives at the cemetery, away from human prying eyes, safe though not glamorous work. She’s good at her job but when a slew of monsters need to be buried, Zooey can’t keep up with the digging. She will get swept up in the mystery of why all the monsters are suddenly dropping dead.
Middle Grade, Monsters, Cemetery, Death, Race, Class, Gender, Authentic Self, grave-digging
I absolutely loved the idea behind this story and thought the execution was excellent. The main character is a grave-digging Beast. She lives at the cemetery because humans are scared of monsters and Zooey is a monster. Most monsters who live amongst humans cover their monster features with a cosmetic product such that humans don’t even know there are monsters living amongst them. There are different classes of monsters: Beasts, Ghosts, Ghouls, Scales, and Plasmas.
The cover is unusual and immediately grabbed my attention. It’s just as quirky and interesting as the novella itself. The author walked a tight balance of tone, not growing too dark while still telling a fascinating story of the main character’s quick self-discovery amidst a pandemic-esque setting. In this world, only the monsters living amongst the humans are dropping dead and nobody knows why. The yuck factor of the imaginative types of monsters was kept at bay with the lack of gore, which helped keep the tone lighter; however, lurking behind this fun story is a heavy allegory on class, race, and gender.
This book would be an amazing read for younger readers who want a good story and an even greater post-reading conversation. If you liked The Addams Family movies but wanted something with more depth then you’ll enjoy this novella. As an adult reader, much like the way Animal Farm is an allegory, this novella too has a lot to say about contemporary topics like skin whitening, living as your authentic self, accepting others and others who are different, critical race theory, and more. If you just want to read this as a fun story with monsters, you don’t have to read too much into the heavier underlying topics.
The ending, though, drives home the lessons to be learned, reminding me that the target audience is a younger one. Until the ending big speech and moral of the story moment, this story reads as a sophisticated novella. The last chapter was short and abrupt. I wanted just a little bit more about Zooey.
This novel was published by FriesenPress on 09/08/2021 and is available on Amazon here.
TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75
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