In this world, we have reached a point where the all pervasiveness of the “Uber-for-(Insert XYZ)” needs to be lampooned.
Or possibly harpooned. Repeatedly.
And of course in a world where monsters run free like cockroaches or mosquitos, there will be an Uber for Monsterhunting – namely, in Gavin Brown’s Middle Grade fantasy MONSTER CLUB: HUNTERS FOR HIRE (Thank you Kidlit Exchange and Scholastic for the Advance Review copy!)
In an attempt to pay for Adventurer (Monster hunter) camp, friend trio Tommy, Karim, and Spike (born Colleen) sign up as independent contractors on AppVenture, “the Uber for Monsterhunting”.
The three come across as somewhat archetypal at first, both in character and in the “wacky misfit friend group” trope of 80s/90s kidlit.
By about mid-way through, I got adjusted to the rotating narration between each main character, and storylines of Brotein drinks and wacky online businesses carries the trio. I loved the strong boys in ⅔ of the POV characters – Karim’s empathy and sensitivity, and Tommy’s self-awareness and bravery. As the mom of an eight-year-old boy, I worry that our sons are getting lost in the Girl Power conversations.
When Spike confirms the conspiracy theory that AppVenture is re-releasing captured monsters into the wild, and exposes it online, she draws the wrath of CEO Mike Tuckerville. He’s a stereotypical sociopathic, poorly-dressed narcissistic tech bro* who doesn’t like being outsmarted, and begins to sic the monsters on the kids.
Hilarity ensues (somehow with no magical creatures being killed).
With epigraphs from Mortimer’s Monsterpedia, young monster lovers/cryptid enthusiasts will enjoy learning about basilisks, gremlins, snipes, and the like.
While a book about killing monsters shouldn’t have “all the feels”, the sub-plots about family problems – Tommy’s family’s money problems, Spike’s conflicting feelings about her deadbeat dad, and Karim’s admiration of his dad (once a famous monster hunter, now in a wheelchair) are exceptionally well-done.
To note, Karim and Spike are presumably POC characters based on their full names, and Spike may be LBGTQ. Race/ethnicity don’t factor into the story at all though (a good thing in my book).
MONSTER CLUB: HUNTERS FOR HIRE is out now from Scholastic. Thank you Kidlit Exchange and Scholastic for the Advance Review copy!
*What, do I work in tech? As it happens I do… how on Earth did you figure that out?
PS – A hooded sweatshirt is. Not. Professional. Attire.