This will be my last book review for this project! But don’t worry, I will be doing more reading over the summer and will update this list! Here we go!
Sáenz, Benjamin. Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Cinco Puntos Press. 2009. 304 p. 1933693584.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
At 18, Zach finds himself in a therapeutic residential program as both an alcoholic and a post-traumatic-stress patient but he doesn’t remember how he got there. Or if he wants to remember. He is guided along the way by a sympathetic and wise therapist, a middle-aged roommate whose own recovery is on an arc ahead of his, and several other interesting minor characters. They are a community: addicts who gather for cigarettes, nightmares, group sessions, and breathing therapy. Now if only Zach can find out how he even got here. But with all these people around him, Zach begins to confront his past and figures out why he ended up here.
So one of the biggest issues you might have with this novel but it is also one of it’s best qualities (so depends on how you look at it) is that Zach is often a bit inarticulate. He uses what I like to call “thought phrases” so, for example, he’ll say things that might confuse people like: “The heart can get really cold if all you’ve known is winter.” or “I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser.” That was a pretty long example but Zach often writes or thinks like this so if this is annoying to you or confusing (which is completely understandable), I’d advise you not to read this book. For those of you who are fine with this, please continue on. Sáenz has a unique gift in writing poetry as prose. Each page is written so deliberately to capture Zach’s emotions and thoughts and just wandering in his head is both fascinating and mysterious. He uses a lot of metaphors to articulate Zach’s thoughts and this may be confusing for some people but that’s just the way some people think and how things make sense to them. I’ll be honest, this book is very sad but it does have a hopeful message. It’s really about the musings of someone who is struggling with alcoholism and PTSD and depression. It’s not the easiest thing to read as is most books regarding mental illness but it’s important. I think that’s why most of the books I chose to read were about mental illness because it’s something that I struggled with and relate to very much. I have never struggled with alcoholism or PTSD but a lot of what Zach was saying was relatable and it was hard to read at times because of this. I think a lot of the reason why we look for books about mental illness is because we’re trying to figure out our cases as well. And in books in general, we look for characters and situations that we relate to because maybe if we find a character that we relate to and see them find hope in their situation, we might be able to as well. So I would like to extend to you all, if you are reading this, that there is always hope, no matter what you are going through. And life is hard but things get better and you are not alone.
I think I would teach this to a class. Definitely, a large part of dissecting this novel would be spent in deciphering Zach’s metaphors because at times, they do tend to get a little complicated and it’s more like his thoughts are drifting. I think it would be interesting to see how students would represent these metaphors. Like if they were to pick one and represent it, either through film, art, poetry, etc. how they would symbolize certain things and represent the overall meaning of the metaphor. I would like to see students play around with this idea.
I hope you all enjoyed my book reviews for this assignment! As I said before, this is not the last of my book reviews for this blog, there will be many many more as I am trying to get more into reading. Although this was more of YA literature, I am open to other book recommendations, YA lit or not, so please recommend some books in the comments below and I will be sure to check them out! I will be making a blog post of my all-time favorite books (those that are 10/10) which are difficult to rate on my book rating scale (for those of you who have been following my journey, I have not given a book 10/10), so be on the look-out for that! Lastly, I would like to thank you all who have viewed/liked my book reviews, thank you so very much for even viewing my nonsensical rambles about random books. Thank you all and I will try to make more posts as the summer begins!