These ideas are fresh and powerful, and Hale often takes them in unexpected directions. She is a poet, and her writing is assured and can be strikingly beautiful. The mother-daughter relationship that develops between the Monsters feels at some times achingly familiar, at others beguilingly bizarre. Most of all, the book has a great generosity and empathy for monsterdom, and refreshingly allows its characters to find happiness without becoming more ordinary. But it’s rare for a debut novel not to have some problem that squanders much of its potential. Here, the issue is that Hale uses the tools of fiction mistrustfully and fumblingly. She has a reflex of avoiding or aborting scenes in which anything actually happens... Hale is certainly a skilful writer with a compelling voice, and her ideas are bold and promising. But in this first outing as a fiction writer, she’s using most of her talent and energy to avoid her story. One hopes the strengths of this book will be enough to give her a second chance at a novel, one that isn’t working so hard not to be a novel at all.