Last Night I Sang to the Monster

Common Sense Media says

Teen faces addiction and abuse in powerful, poetic novel.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 
ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

Educational value

Last Night I Sang to the Monster includes information about drug and alcohol abuse, addiction, and recovery, and what it's like to be in rehab.

Positive messages

Zach has had a hard life but ultimately learns the value of loving yourself, connecting with other people, and trying to be happy.

Positive role models

Zach has made a lot of bad choices, including abusing alcohol and drugs, but he is struggling to become a whole person. He has some wonderful role models in the book, including a kind therapist and a much older roommate who becomes a father figure to Zach.

Violence

There is plenty of disturbing violence in this book, including the abuse that Zach remembers at the hands of his angry brother, and another gruesome incident that's revealed. Zach's depressed mother also tries to sexually abuse him, and another character remembers years of sexual abuse, including rape, from his guardian. An adult feels guilty for a car accident that killed his young son, and Zach remembers breaking car windshields with a baseball bat when angry.

Sex

A gay character asks Zach if he can kiss him, but nothing happens between the two of them.

Language

Lots of "f--k," in multiple variations, as well as "pissed," "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "crap," and "prick."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

This is a book about addicts, so there are characters that drink, use cocaine, and shoot heroin. This behavior is not glamorized, but shown as something addicts do to fill a void in their lives. Zach also smokes, even when he is released from the facility.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the award-winning Last Night I Sang to the Monster is a novel about a teen dealing with his alcohol addiction and a dysfunctional and abusive family. Originally published in 2009, it was released in paperback in April 2012. This is a book about addicts in a recovery facility, so characters smoke, drink, use cocaine, and shoot heroin. This behavior is not glamorized but shown as something addicts do to fill a void in their lives. Be prepared for lots of profane language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and gritty material, such as sexual abuse and physical abuse, including gun violence.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER begins with Zach in a recovery facility, refusing to remember what brought him there -- \"I don't like remembering. Remembering makes me feel things. I don't like feeling things.\" With the help of his kind therapist and a much older roommate who becomes a father figure to the young alcoholic, Zach begins to unpack his past, which includes a depressed mother, an alcoholic father, and an angry, abusive older brother. It's a painful journey, though -- \"How could I have so many tears living there, in my body? How could they fit? when was it going to stop? When?\" Zach knows he will have to be brave to be able to remember, and admit, the terrible incident that brought him to Cabin 9.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Readers will be quickly swept up in the poetic language of this novel, which convincingly captures the young alcoholic's feeling, including his belief that he is doomed ("I have it in my head that when we're born, God writes things down on our hearts. ... When it came to my turn, he wrote sad"). Zach's honest narration makes it is easy to empathize with the troubled teen and root for him as he struggles between wanting to remember and wanting to forget his horrible past. Though the book is easy to read, it is full of metaphors and mature material that makes it best suited for older teens. Adults will be equally captivated and moved by Zach's story and should consider reading it along with their kids.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster made 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list, compiled by the Young Adult Library Services, a division of teh American Library Association.

American Library Association.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about books with gritty material, such as addiction and abuse. Are there topics that are off limits to teen readers? Do books like this one scare readers -- or glamorize bad behaviors -- or do they help teach teens about the world and promote empathy?

  • Also, families can talk about the book's title. Zach spends most of the book terrified of the Monsters that haunt his nightmares. So, is singing to the Monster a good thing? Why do you think the author decided to use this as the title?

Book details

Author:Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Cinco Puntos Press
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):16 - 18
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of Last Night I Sang to the Monster was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byBestPicture1996 August 15, 2012
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Poetic and beautiful

This novel repeats words alot ("That really tears me up") to get the sense that everything Zach is telling us is a poem. It's a moving account of addiction, some people are shown not being able to go through rehab. Zach's struggles are sometimes difficult to handle, but this book is extremely rewarding.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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