Published by Hachette
Published on 28 July 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Performing Arts, Young Adult
Source: my home library
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In a neo-Gothic mansion in a city at the end of the world, Ellie finds there's room enough for art, family, forgiveness and love. A coming-of-age story about embracing the things that scare us from the author of The Year the Maps Changed.
How do you ruin someone's childhood? You let them make-believe that they are a monster. But sooner or later, the mask must come off...
Ellie Marsden was born into the legendary Lovinger acting dynasty. Granddaughter of the infamous Lottie Lovinger, as a child Ellie shared the silver screen with Lottie in her one-and-only role playing the child monster in a cult horror movie. The experience left Ellie deeply traumatised and estranged from people she loved.
Now seventeen, Ellie has returned home to Hobart for the first time in years. Lottie is dying and Ellie wants to make peace with her before it's too late. But forgiveness feels like playing make-believe, and memories are like ghosts.
When a chance encounter with a young film buff leads her to a feminist horror film collective, Ellie meets Riya, a girl who she might be able to show her real self to, and at last come to understand her family's legacy - and her own part in it.
A story of love, loss, family and film - a stirring, insightful novel about letting go of anger and learning to forgive without forgetting. And about embracing the things that scare us, in order to be braver.
Sometimes you find a book that speaks to your soul so personally, it’s as if the author ripped open your chest, dissected your heart under a microscope, found a whole bunch of things you love and identify with, and then wrote a book about it.
To say that I understand why representation is important is an understatement.
I wanted to read The Monster of Her Age because it’s set in Hobart, Tasmania (that little heart shaped island at the bottom of Australia that basically every map ever forgets to add, and which the author will remind you approximately every five pages), and it’s about an alternate history where Australian cinema was just as well-funded, successful, and beloved as Hollywood; it’s about the grief of losing someone you love; it’s about overcoming trauma and learning to heal without necessarily forgiving.
I found the narrative so touching. The main character, Ellie, has been dragged back to the arse end of the world (I say with all the love in my heart), having left for her own sanity, which I totally understand. It’s actually a thing that many young Tasmanians feel that they have to do at some point in their life. Her grandmother, beloved film actress Lottie Lovinger, is dying, and Ellie has many demons to face.
She meets a cute horror film nerd and they slowly tumble into a relationship. I really liked this aspect of the story because Ellie is bi, and her parents have no issue with that at all, and her love interest is also a queer girl, and it was really lovely seeing a queer love story where both of them are out and loved and supported by their families and friends. Their queerness isn’t the issue, and I love that so much.
I know a bit about the Australian film industry, but Binks fills in the blanks with a complete alternate history that is so seamlessly woven into the established truth that you’re not sure what’s fact and what’s fiction. Binks also appears to know Hobart very well, and fills the pages with local landmarks, including the history of the beloved State Cinema that hosts the horror film night where Ellie’s love interest works.
I just loved everything about this book. I loved Ellie’s struggle to face her past, and relationships with her mother and her step-grandfather Poe who I love with every fibre of my being, and her messy family dynamics which might as well have been holding a mirror up to my own. I loved the plot and the narrative voice, the pacing, the antagonists, the worldbuilding, the word choices, the attitude towards the Arts, just everything. I loved the gothic feel (Tasmania is famous in the literary world for its gothic literature, FYI!), the atmosphere, Ellie’s feelings on returning to a place that already haunted her and she’d rather forget.
I raced through this book in an afternoon, and although I had a fabulous time, I regret spending so little time with Ellie.