A peculiar family of cryptozoologists confronts the tides of change in this young-adult fantasy.
Shein and Gates (Being a Normal Family Is a State of Mind, 2014) deliver the second entry in their well-received Monsterjunkies saga set in Foggy Point, Maine. Cromwell “Crow” Monsterjunkie can’t stop looking over his shoulder, and for good reason: His nemesis, the bullying Ruth Grimes Jr., won’t live down the humiliation he suffered at Crow’s hands not long ago. But for Crow, whose family’s mission is “to find, protect, and study unusual, rare, and thought to be nonexistent species,” Ruth is the least of his worries. For instance, there’s Crow’s friend Beauregard—a highly intelligent sasquatch living under the Monsterjunkies’ care—who yearns to leave the family estate and seek his origins. Crow’s sister, Indigo, has grown petulant as college (and her future) looms. And Crow can’t find the words to tell his renowned professor father that inheriting the family legacy isn’t exactly on his to-do list. When they’re not caring for pterodactyls, sea serpents or shape-shifting gargoyles, the Monsterjunkies struggle with issues that are nearly universal among teenagers and young adults. Like all teens, Crow and Indigo learn—however unwillingly—that with time comes change. The animals they’ve nursed to health and loved like pets must eventually be reintegrated to the wild; their friend, Winter, crumbles before their eyes while attempting to cope with her mother’s death; and, perhaps most traumatically, they come to realize their parents aren’t infallible. As Crow’s fears mount, his father advises him: “It’s how you learn to know, to find out who you really are, what you feel, what you like and don’t like, what you need, what you believe. You may have to start by just listening.” Readers learn by listening, too—this tale of identity and self-approbation is accompanied by enough scientific facts and environmental philosophies to double as a high school textbook. Insightful but not overly self-righteous, it encourages compassion and a deference to the unknown.
A well-wrought sequel with more than a few excellent messages for young readers.