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Early Review: One of Us by Craig DiLouie

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One of Us by Craig DiLouie // VBC ReviewOne of Us
Craig DiLouie
Published: July 17, 2018 (Orbit)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Who defines what a monster is? Is it the child who doesn’t look “normal,” or the adult who locks that child away in a home with other children, who are beaten, not educated, and forced to work in the fields? Which of these is truly the monster? If the “monster” eventually turns on its human “masters,” was it because he was always a monster and it was right to keep him locked away? Or is it because he became a monster upon realizing the truth of his existence?

In One of Us, these questions are explored, using a mutation that happens in the early ‘80s. Babies are born that come out as “monsters,” and their horrified and terrified parents give them up to the government Homes. It’s in one of these homes that we meet Dog, Brain, Tiny, and a variety of others—all of whom are coming of age and realizing their lot in life. Things are not made any easier by those “normal” folks living in town, either—most of whom are angry that government resources, during a recession, should be “wasted” on monsters that should have been killed in the first place.

The characters in this story are mostly teenagers, kids on both sides who are trying to figure out where they stand in life. Adults tend to be more on the sidelines in this book, though there are a couple who make longer and larger appearances. The feelings, motivations, and actions of all the characters ring true to the book, even when your eyes are open in horror, knowing what is coming—yet hoping you are wrong. There is a preacher who preaches hatred from the pulpit, a sheriff worried about his upcoming election, and small-town idiots who both fear and hate whatever they don’t understand. Very small-town-in-the-eighties all the way around.

The book is set in a small town in Georgia. Reagan is president, and there is a recession with tough times for towns all over the country. Only in this version, a sexually transmitted disease exists that will guarantee—if you have it—that you give birth to monsters. Now there are new rules about testing, a new government agency exists to utilize these kids if they have special gifts (aka: to abuse their powers), and a hatred of other that just moved to a different group.

As is always the case, it’s the kids dealing with the consequences of the actions of their parents, their neighbors, and friends, but without realizing and understanding how those consequences fit into their everyday lives. The kids who are raised to fear real “monsters,” and the monsters who are raised to feel less than. There are heavy themes in this book, and timely ones, too. So many similarities to the state of our country right now, with “other” being cruelly mocked or tormented or beaten—sometimes even killed—simply for not being what someone else expected. I’m not sure if this was in the author’s mind during the crafting of this novel, but it’s certainly present.

Having said that, One of Us is well written and a compulsive read, but it is dark, and I’m not ashamed to say I shed a few tears in places. There are lessons here that can be seen, or the book can just be read as the story that it is, depending on the reader.

Sexual Content: None

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