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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

"Not all of the voices we hear are imaginary."

I'm a big fan of FTP titles and was thrilled to receive an eARC of Brian Kirk's We Are Monsters for review consideration. Great cover, great blurb, I eagerly dove in.

We Are Monsters is a piercing, terrifying journey through madness, time, and redemption. From the first page, Kirk creates a world where what we know can't be trusted: memories, time, even our own eyes deceive us. Alex, an ambitious doctor determined to find a cure for schizophrenia, is on the verge of change. His secret trials aren't going well. He's broke, out of investors, and his idolized older brother's fall from star athlete to paranoid schizophrenia leaves him constantly in the shadow of his father's affections. Conversely, his mentor is set to hand over control of Sugar Hill institution to Alex.

As long as the review board meeting goes well.

Of course, things don't go as planned. Under the encouragement of his wife, Alex administers his unapproved serum to his brother, which ultimately has disastrous consequences and serves as a catalyst for a series of events which force the reader to endure a frightening, introspective unraveling of reality. Characters relive their pasts, their worst fears in brutal, bloody detail. The line between crazy and sane bends and blurs.

And at the forefront is one pervasive question: What if we're all crazy?

I loved so many things about this book. The quiet, philosophical moments Kirk explores the nature, stigmas, and treatment of mental illness in modern society are beautiful. Nightmarish imagery 10/10--his descriptions are vivid and visceral and cinematic. And while I didn't particularly like any of the characters--I'm not sure you're supposed to, in fact--I felt for them. They were complex and flawed, smart and forgiving.

An interesting read (with a few dense sections that could've been pared down for a crisper experience). Brian Kirk has breathed life into a horrifying interpretation on the asylum genre. If you like your MCs with a healthy dose of reality and an extra scoop of alternate reality, this is the book for you.


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