In literature as a whole and particularly literature for young adults, family ties are often weak or disintegrating and parental figures absent or abusive. Granted, many know by experience the painful reality of fractured families, but strong, loving families do exist, and their absence in young adult novels is conspicuous.
I’ve discussed the topic of troubled families several times here, along with the lack of sibling and familial love in novels, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to explore a novel that depicts a loving family in a realistic manner–The Monster in the Hollows.
From the first page to the last, the family ties hold the book together and shape the decisions made and battles fought. Siblings Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli share a strong bond that helps propel the story forward. Not only do they stand for one another, they also suffer to ensure the well-being of one another. In particular, Janner endures many trials in his role as warden (protector) of his brother Kalmar. Yet the love Janner displays toward his siblings doesn’t come across as false, because even as he seeks to act rightly, he experiences natural human responses of resentment, frustration, and anger. No perfect characters exist in life or in this story, only flawed people beginning to grow and mature.
Not only does Monster in the Hollows display strong sibling ties, the relationships between the children and their mother Nia, grandfather Podo, and uncle Artham all depict important elements of familial love without neglecting the challenges. But perhaps what this tale conveys most strongly is the power of sacrificial love.
True love requires a willingness to sacrifice, even for the seemingly undeserving. We see it with Janner taking up the burden of Kalmar’s protection and with Nia willing to pledge her life on her unpredictable son. Without giving spoilers, I can’t say more, but the sacrificial love demonstrated by many of the characters, especially toward others in their family, infuse the story with beauty.
These bonds between family members spark great deeds of heroism which deepen the impact of the story. The book opens with Janner bearing the wounds given him by his brother, and it closes with one of the most touching scenes of family devotion I’ve ever read. Lest I spoil the story, I’ll say no more about the conclusion, save that almost everyone I know who read it has wept, adult and teen alike.
In a time where most books neglect family devotion in favor of friction or hatred between family members or ignore the ties of familial love in favor of romance, The Monster in the Hollows shines as a story about true love in its many forms.
Through the context of the tale, we’re privileged to see what family truly means. And that’s powerful.
If you want to see what others thought of this story, visit the tour stops below:
Thomas Clayton Booher
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Donita K. Paul
Rachel Starr Thomson