A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545817844.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

Fear the living more than the dead.

It’s London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.

When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Sexual assault; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. After a fateful stint in Bryant and May’s match factory leaves 17-year-old orphan Evelyn Fallow with “phossy jaw”—and the scars that come with it—she seeks refuge within the supposedly secure walls of the London Hospital. Assigned to attend the notorious Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, Evelyn is both boundlessly grateful and fiercely frightened. Though the two bond almost instantly, their friendship is swiftly punctuated by the arrival of late-night apparitions, which they soon recognize to be victims of “Leather Apron’s” concurrent murders. With the nightly return of each—first, the tormented Polly Nichols; second, the shrieking Annie Chapman; third, the inconsolable “Long Liz”; and, finally, the self-destructive Catherine Eddowes—Mr. Merrick’s fragile condition worsens. In order to save him, Evelyn will have to appease each spirit, inevitably confronting the squalor she escaped, as well as Jack the Ripper. While the anachronistic prose can be distracting, Kirby’s character development, particularly his portrayal of the extraordinary Mr. Merrick, is consistently impressive. Austen devotees are sure to appreciate Kirby’s commitment to the gothic entanglements of Northanger Abbey.

Publishers Weekly (June 27, 2016)
In this grisly fantasy from Kirby (the Dark Gravity Sequence), the year is 1888 and London’s slums are soon to be terrorized by Leather Apron (later known as Jack the Ripper), who murders prostitutes in the most gruesome manner possible. In a nearby East End hospital resides a monster of a gentler sort: Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who has a new maid, 17-year-old Evelyn Fallows. Some would label Evelyn a monster as well, her jaw destroyed by phosphorus necrosis from working in a match factory. Evelyn is initially repulsed by Merrick’s deformity, but she soon recognizes him as a gentle soul. After the murders commence, the ghosts of Leather Apron’s victims begin to appear in Merrick’s room. Concerned about the effect of these monstrous apparitions on Merrick’s health, Evelyn ventures into the slums in an attempt to put the suffering ghosts to rest. Evelyn-all grit, anger, and distrust-is a complex and engaging character, the slums and slang of Victorian-era London are carefully delineated, and the eventual revelation of Leather Apron’s identity and fate will leave readers gasping. Ages 12-up. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary.

About the Author

Matthew Kirby was born in Utah, and grew up in Maryland, California, and Hawaii. As an undergraduate he majored in history, and then went on to pursue an M.S. in school psychology. For ten months out of the year he works with students, and during the rest of the year he writes. He and his wife currently live in northern Utah.

His website is www.matthewjkirby.com.

Teacher Resources

Jack the Ripper Activities and Questions

Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man) Biography

Around the Web

A Taste for Monsters on Amazon

A Taste for Monsters on JLG

A Taste for Monsters on Goodreads

 

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