Book Review: SOME KIND OF ANIMAL (2020) by Maria Romasco Moore
My detour down the YA horror path continues, although I would describe Some Kind of Animal as more of a dark, gritty contemporary. I'll get into it later on, but let's just say that this book surprised me--in a good way--and surpassed all my expectations.
Fifteen-year-old Jo has never felt like she's quite fit in with the people from her small town. She doesn't know her dad, and her mom, who disappeared after giving birth to her, is presumed dead. As if her life isn't tragic enough, she's got one major secret: she has a twin sister named Lee who lives in the woods. Jo sneaks out at night to see her and they run for hours in the night, leaving her sleep-deprived during school the next day. Her aunt Aggie and her religious boyfriend worry about her mental health, but Jo pushes them away. If they knew about Lee, they might try to take her away from Jo, and Jo would have no place to escape.
But then Lee attacks one of Jo's friends, putting him in the hospital, and everyone thinks Jo was the one who attacked him. If she clears her own name, she'll expose her sister. Her other option? Run. Just as she's always dreamed of doing.
It was good. Moore had some evocative descriptions here and there, especially when the characters were in the woods. I also felt like the tone of the book was well established through Jo's voice. Moore really nailed Jo's personality and worldview, and the narrative felt genuinely teenagery, if not a little literary.
There were a couple scenes though, especially near the end, where the descriptions felt repetitive or dragged out. Jo's commentary was occasionally rambly. Overall, this is a nitpicky critique and doesn't have much bearing on my overall enjoyment of this book.
The occasionally rambly narration was the occasional root cause of slow pacing. I don't feel at all as though the pacing was too slow, but there were a few scenes that felt dragged out because there wasn't much happening. I kept flipping back at the end of chapters and saying to myself, meh, this scene could have been about five pages shorter. Again, this was a minor problem. I can only recall this happening one or two times.
You probably read my summary of the book and were like, uh, what the bleep did you just read? I know. It sounds a little... no offense to Moore, but... stupid? Implausible? Eh, a little bit. But if you buy into the premise, it's quite riveting. It kept my attention most of the way through.
It also felt well-balanced, overall. There were strong moments of character development, but also some really dark and twisty moments that had my knuckles bulging as I gripped the book in my hands.
I thought Moore did a really good job developing her characters. I had a good sense of who they were and why. They had distinct personalities, well-drawn-out backstories, and behaved in a way that made sense.
I also appreciate that Moore was willing to write an unlikable protagonist. To say Jo is unlikeable would certainly be an understatement. In fact, one could argue that (and this is a little bit of a spoiler), Jo has a negative character arc. That's how I felt by the end, at least, as Jo's mental health and trust in other people slowly deteriorated. This turn for the worst made the plot all the more heartbreaking.
There's not much I dislike about this book. In fact, I really, really liked this book. I just have a couple of quips about the ending, though. In order to give away as little as possible, I'll just say that the ending felt unfinished. It wasn't necessarily abrupt, but I felt like it left too many questions unanswered--questions the readers deserved to have answered. Sometimes ambiguous endings are okay, but this ending felt a little unsatisfying.
I almost wonder, though, if Moore was setting up a sequel. There's so much story left to tell, so I definitely wouldn't be mad at a follow-up book!
My rating (out of five):
* * * *
Give this one a try if you're willing to buy into the premise. It'll surprise you like it surprised me, I promise!