(Image from goodreads.com)
Summary (from goodreads.com): Jane lives alone in a strange old house with her invalid mother who has been catatonic for years, afflicted by a strange wasting disease. But the friendship of a new girl in town, Sabrina, will push Jane to unearth the mysteries of her mother’s past and the dark history of her missing father, forcing her to face a monstrous lineage and the cost of her dark life.
Full disclosure: horror is not my genre. In fact, I haven’t read much in that line since my high school days of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Edgar Allan Poe. When it comes to movies, I don’t usually sit through anything gorier than Scream and its sequels. Anyone who knows me would laugh in my face if I claimed that I didn’t get pretty squeamish at several times while reading Parasite Life, and I can’t say how it stacks up within the genre with regard to the “ick” factor. I can say, however, that as a story of self-discovery, of family, and of independence, this book presents some very real and well-developed issues that ring true with all readers, whether they are horror junkies or not.
As a fan of young adult fiction, I value works that transport the reader to a different place while showing them something important about the real world, too. Ms. Dalpe has done this by drawing a dark, mysterious, and gruesome tale about monsters that makes us question the monster inside each of us. She provides a heroine who may also be the villain, a teenager approaching adulthood who realizes she never had a childhood, and an innocent, lonely girl who must learn more quickly than most the joys and pitfalls of human relationships.
Dalpe’s writing is straightforward and honest, yet couched in the classic darkness of Poe and Shelley. Her use of setting provides a realistic, recognizable background to the story while her prose uncovers the sinister and the unknown in our ordinary world. The structure of the narrative, which interrupts the first person point of view with a Frankenstein-esque epistolary second act, is effective in revealing the dark secrets of Jane’s past at a tantalizing yet curiosity-inducing pace. However, the journal section lasts longer than I expected, and there was a point where I had to stop myself from flipping forward to see how much was left before it switched back to Jane’s perspective. By the end of the journal, though, I was devouring the words, eager and horrified to learn what happened next.
My favorite thing about Parasite Life is that, even though on the surface it is about the solitary life of a monster, it deeply explores the convoluted nature of human relationships. It points out the selfish aspects of love that can be hard to face, and it prompts the reader to examine their own motives when interacting with others. Family, dating, love, sex, and so many other kinds of relationships are complicated and confusing, and this novel takes them seriously and encourages readers to do so, too.
Favorite Line: “I hadn’t been very good at being a person, but maybe I was good at being a monster.”