THE MONSTER IN ME
Mette Ivie Harrison, . . Holiday, $16.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1713-1
Harrison debuts with a story about a 13-year-old girl who is placed in a foster home while her mother enters a drug rehab program. Natalie, plagued by nightmares that she is a monster, enters the Parker family reluctantly and fearfully: she's afraid to need anyone because no one in her life has proven reliable. Unfortunately, Natalie, who narrates in the present tense, is only partially convincing. She describes having been so desperate that she has eaten dog food, yet when one of her foster sisters deliberately blocks her view of the TV and says, "Yeah?" after Nathalie asks her to move, Natalie is shocked: "No one has ever been so outright obnoxious to me." The plotting is overly tidy. The narrator begins identifying with the Parker family when she learns their lives have not been perfect either. Her love of running turns out to be shared by not only Mr. Parker but, a little too coincidentally, by the first girl Natalie meets at her new school, Mary, who, despite Natalie's repeated rebuffs, urges her to join the track team. Characters conform to convention, including the wholly dedicated track coach, Mr. Landers, who sagely explains that running "is all about getting connected.... First to the ground. Then to yourself. Then to the rest of the world." The figure most free of stereotype is Mrs. Parker, which might indicate that the author's talents lend themselves more to describing the domestic front than profiling traumatized teens. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 04/14/2003