Last Night I Sang to the Monster, by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2009)

Genre: Contemporary Realism
Interest level: 15-adult
Last Night I Sang to the MonsterZach Gonzalez is 18 years old and an alcoholic. He’s in rehab with other addicts (cocaine, heroin, alcohol), but doesn’t remember how he got there. Here’s what he knows: they found him at the side of the road, and the hospital brought him back from near death. Now he is in rehab to get better, though he doesn’t really want to. When he tries to do the work, his anxiety grows to near panic level: “I felt as if my heart was freezing up, like it was in the middle of a storm and there were things running through my mind, things that were stomping on me, telling me things I didn’t want to know–bad things–and I wanted to take a bat to my own brain.” I did find Zach’s limited vocabulary annoying at first, especially given he is supposed to have been college-bound based on his high school performance. I soon found myself immersed in the story and began to recognize this as one of Zach’s coping mechanisms. Over the course of the book, Zach slowly begins to connect with the people around him, learning to look himself in the mirror and sometimes running away when the pain is too much. I described it to a friend as watching paramedics at an accident scene. You can’t look away. They are trying to save a life, and you don’t know which way it will turn out. You fear the worst and are afraid to feel hope because the pain of failure is unbearable. Still you can’t turn away.
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