The Story Of a Girl and Her Monster By Jonathan Auxier.
This book has to be my favorite book I’ve read so far in 2019. I love history, I love kid lit, I love monsters, and I love mysteries. This was a perfect combination of all of these wonderful things. Not only that, I have always been fascinated with rooftops and chimney sweeps so this story is basically the story I should have written myself, but it didn’t come to me, it came to Jonathan Auxier. I am so glad it did. I enjoyed every bit of it.
This is more than just a historical fiction for kids, it’s a fantasy story with a monster friend as a main character and a bit of an ongoing mystery to solve. Now perhaps there are plenty of fantasy stories out there that bring into it the harsh reality of humanity’s discussing history, but I’m unaware of those. These things; monsters, history, fantasy, mystery, all sound like genres that wouldn’t mix well, but SWEEP brings these parts of the brain together so naturally you’ll feel the lines between imagination and fact blur.
Set in Victorian London, SWEEP tells of children being exploited for cheap labor in the deadly vocation of chimney sweeps, mostly boys. Our main character however is female, and bad-ass. Nan Sparrow is the exact type of character I would have looked for in the library as a kid. She’s bright, tough, dirty, sentimental, and super independent. She had a fantastic mentor who disappears early on and no one knows why. She’s only left with a bit of ash. One day this ash turns into the “monster” portion of this story and things get strange.
Strange, in a very good way. I can see how some folks may wonder where the story is headed, or what the point is, or why anyone would even care. (I’m always playing devil’s advocate). I was not one of those people. When the adventure died down, I truly enjoyed the characters just being in their odd places and going through the emotions they needed to deal with. I loved how the characters were not thrown at you from the start. Some yes, but mostly, you had to meet them and learn about them slowly like real life. And as in real life I was figuring out who I was going to get along with and who I was not going to trust. There is not a single perfect character in this story, everyone has very real flaws and just as in real life you have to take the good with the bad if you are to become friends.
Besides the characters, I enjoyed going back in history and seeing the world from a new point of view. I enjoyed the mystery slowly unraveling. The mystery serves as a way to weave a lot of underlining thoughts and ideas behind the main plot. In case you miss any of it, the author brings things to light before the finale. All in all, there is so much to take away from this story. When I was finished I missed this book. I missed hanging out with my friends when it was over. I was there, I went back in time, I helped out where I could, and it’s been damn hard returning to 2019 and my own life.
As a bonus, the author gives lots of info at the end about the factual part of London at that time. I love books that make me want to do extra research after I’ve completed their stories. This portion of his book talks not only about chimney sweeps but other nasty jobs that were real back then. He dares you to investigate what a “tosher” was back then, but I dare you to google “gong farmers”.
Harsh realities aside, I am so glad this was a purchase and not a borrow. The Sweep And Her Monster is a welcome addition to my shelves and I’m sure will be reread one day when I need to return to London and Nan.