Last Night I Sang To The Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz - book review

Last Night I Sang to the Monster opens with eighteen-year-old Zach Gonzalez in a mental health facility uncertain as to how he landed there. Alcohol and trauma have left him there and we heal along with him as he comes to realize the monsters in his path. Though Zach is reluctant to examine the facts that left him broken, ultimately, the story is one of healing and love. Zach will face the monster.

Zach is a wonderful addition to YA male protagonists. He’s not worried about the football team, or the hot girl or how nerdy he is. Zach has real problems, ones he has chosen to forget. At first he shut them out with alcohol, now he’s agonizingly being forced to face his past. The characters that wander through Zach’s recovery are as captivating as Zach. From them he finds beauty and strength in order to move forward and begin his adult life.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster's writing is hypnotic, filled with emotional depth and intensity. Author Benjamin Alire Sáenz has a beautiful style. I’m guessing he’s studied and written some poetry. It must be said that the short sentence burst might be off-putting to some. However, this effort goes along with my belief that this is a book best read in small bursts itself, with time for discussion and reflection. The plot is motivated by our desire to figure out how Zach landed in his situation (which isn’t revealed until the very end and is more heart-wrenching than we’ve even predicted). But perhaps the book’s greatest strength is its lack of didactics. The matter-of fact way that Sáenz portrays teen life makes this book superbly accessible to teens.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster is a story of monsters, both real and imaginary and a young man who tried to fight them, at first with alcohol and then later, through a recovery program. Last Night I Sang to the Monster is not an easy read because it hits the big themes of God and love, but it is a worthwhile addition to young adult literature.

FYI: All the glowing praise aside, I feel that I must warn: Last Night I Sang to the Monster is filled with “F” bombs. The argument can be made that it adds to the realism of Zach’s character, but it’s there, just so you know.

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Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: High School Students
Pages: 304
Themes: Family, Love, Abuse, Alcholism
Awards: Last Night I Sang to the Monster was nominated for a 2010 PEN Award.
Thank You to Author Benjamin Alire Sáenz for my signed copy!
Advisory: Strong Language & Themes
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press. Date: September 2009. ISBN-10: 1933693584

BUY Last Night I Sang to the Monster HERE

Here's the author reading the first few pages:

An interesting interview with the author can be found in Minero Magazine.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was raised on a farm in New Mexico. In 1981 he was ordained a Catholic priest, but eventually left the priesthood. He later completed a PhD at Stanford Uniersity. He has taught at the University of Texas at El Paso for twenty years. You can read more about him on his website.

© 2007-2010 Cheryl Vanatti for
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