I picked up this book for a controversial lit course last term. It was on a VOYA booklist called, “booklist sure to raise eyebrows” and so I figured that it would be a good fit for my class.
18 year old Zach is an alcoholic in rehab, but he can’t remember why. Nor does he want to remember, remembering is scary and it hurts too bad to go back to the time before all this.
Zach believes that when people are born God writes things down on their hearts, on his own heart Zach believes God wrote sad. He spends a lot of time alone at rehab, smoking cigarettes and keeping to himself, not interacting in group, and avoiding telling his story.
Eventually Zach gets a roommate, Rafael, and things slowly begin to change for him. Rafael is 50 year old alcoholic, another sad guy, and Zach is annoyed that his counselor assigned him a roommate. He doesn’t see what’s so bad about being alone. Sometimes it’s safer to be alone. Eventually he doesn’t seem to mind Rafael too much, he’s quite like Zach and they are able to enjoy a companionable silence as well as deeper conversation. Rafael is trying to stay sober, one day at a time, but Zach is less sure.
Not long after Rafael moves in the two are assigned another roommate: Sharkey. Sharkey is loud, he takes up space, and fills in all of the silence that Zach and Rafael have created in their room. He’s a perfect fit though, an unlikely strong member of their trio.
I was so moved by this book. I think that it will speak to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, whether through a family member or a friend. It definitely will give readers a safe place to talk about what it is like living with or even being friends with an alcoholic.
I loved Last Night I Sang to the Monster way more than I anticipated I would. Saenz is an excellent writer and has a way of really getting into the heart of his characters and making them stick with the reader. He writes young men very well– giving them a full range of emotions, a refreshing break from the traditional sort of 2-dimensional male characters one often sees in YA-Fic.
Young Zach is a very real character and his process of self growth and realization was really beautiful, and often painful, to watch. This book is going to be a hit with young men and young women alike because Saenz is such a great writer that his work will draw even someone who doesn’t personally identify with the characters into the book.
This a great book for this year’s motto: keep reading! stay uncomfortable!