Size Doesn’t Matter (164): Waste of Space; This Monstrous Thing

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (164): Waste of Space; This Monstrous ThingWaste of Space by Gina Damico
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on July 11, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Humor
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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three-stars

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

Gina Damico’s debut series, the Croak trilogy, is one of my favorite series of all time and made up of some of my favorite books. Since then, I’ve been waiting with high hopes for more Damico novels with that level of shippiness, humor, and badassness. Waste of Space is Beauty Queens meets Illuminae but lacks the characterization to really pack an emotional punch.

Told in documents and transcripts of video, the format and setting are reminiscent of Kaufman and Kristoff’s Illuminae Files. The tone is all Beauty Queens. Add in an unhealthy dose of reality TV, and you’ve got Waste of Space. It’s funny and worth a read if you’re into parody, but I wasn’t particularly invested.

The problem with parody novels can be that the characters are all intentionally flat. There are a couple of mildly more developed characters in Waste of Space, but they’re still pretty one-dimensional, and there’s no ship. The characters are only ever as developed as they need to be to make a specific joke about reality TV cliches. The novel works well as a parody/satire, but there’s a lack of depth beyond that.

If you’re looking for a quick read with a lot of humor, Waste of Space may fit the bill, but it’s not a book I’d ever really want to revisit, and it’s already fading from my head ten days later.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


Size Doesn’t Matter (164): Waste of Space; This Monstrous ThingThis Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
Published by Katherine Tegen on September 22, 2015
Genres: Historical, Steampunk, Gothic, Retelling, Science Fiction, Horror
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

After being impressed by Lee’s sophomore novel, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I decided to go back and read her debut, especially since I had a new shiny copy from her event (sort of) near me. This Monstrous Thing retells one of my least favorite novels using one of my least favorite tropes and without romance, but I actually still liked it. That’s impressive yo.

I had to read Frankenstein for freshman English, and, even if growing up with Franke as a last name hadn’t ruined it for me, I was never going to like it. Gothic literature in general often doesn’t sit so well with me, because it always sends to end up meaning that the author spends the bulk of the pages developing the scenery rather than the plot or characters. Frankenstein bored me then (and in fact I skipped all descriptions of nature aka most of the book, but got over a hundred on the test BOOYAH), and, when I tried to reread with an audiobook narrated by Dan Stevens, it STILL bored me to tears and I gave up.

Then there’s the fact that This Monstrous Thing is one of those retellings where the author was basically just writing life as she knew it, rather than using her powerful intelligence and imagination, a trope I generally loathe. I mind it less here since a) it’s authored by a woman (when men write novels about Jane Austen basically just writing the lives of people around her exactly, I get massively stabby) and b) Mary still made up a good deal of the novel, though inspired by actual events.

There was a lot working against me enjoying this novel, as you can see, but I was actually pretty into it and consistently entertained. Lee’s prose is excellent, the pacing is consistent (on the slower side, but with a constant forward propulsion), and the setting is lush. I love the way Lee has made Frankenstein steampunk and added the tensions between clockwork people and “normal” people.

Where I would have liked more is the characterization. Alasdair’s narration is good, but, aside from him, people remain just this side of static. Oliver especially would have benefited from more characterization, as his situation could have been massively tragic and feels-inducing if the reader had known him before he was turned into a clockwork monster. Mary’s basically every MPDG. I’m blanking on the other girl’s name and I don’t have my book with me, but she’s pretty awesome and bi (!); I just wish there’d been more of her. The ending didn’t feel entirely satisfying on an emotional level, though it works on a plot level.

Worth reading even if you’re not into Frankenstein. It’s definitely more of a plot/world building book than a character book however.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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