The Monster Missions by Laura Martin
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: June 1, 2021
The Monster Missions is a story about two friends, Berkley and Garth, living in an ocean-covered future Earth and helping their families by scavenging what they can from the shells of civilization that have long sunk beneath the surface. However, unbeknownst to Berkley and Garth, the waters are filled with legendary monsters…and they’ve accidentally woken one up and made it very cranky.
Banished to a submarine specifically designed for tracking these mythical beasts and protecting humans from them, Berkley and Garth try to make their way in a world of monster hunting they never knew existed.
Berkley is a great female protagonist. Most notably because she doesn’t have to be female. You could have a male character do pretty much all things she does, and no major plotlines would be disrupted. (ie There’s no subplots that revolve around how the boys don’t believe in her or treat her differently.) We need more books like The Monster Missions that are just about girls doing their thing. Books that challenge the idea that “male” is the default character in an adventure story and “female” characters are used only when you are writing a book about “girly stuff.”
That being said, this book could have been more. The setup is excellent, but once it’s over, Berkley doesn’t steer the plot as much as I would have liked for her to. In fact, a large portion of the book is dedicated to (forgive the pun) fish out of water scenes. Berkley is introduced to some new aspect of life aboard the submarine, is shocked and amazed at it (and in all fairness, most of it is pretty amazing), then she is surprised further by how accustomed the seasoned members of the crew have grown to their extraordinary life here. Action scenes abound, and there’s no shortage of moments when the characters are inches from death. I could absolutely picture myself reading this book to my kids, slipping into my super-fast-and-exciting-action-narrator voice, and having them on the edge of their seats. But those events often come to Berkley, not the other way around. Yes, there’s a larger problem that Berkley is trying to solve (which I won’t mention for spoiler reasons), but the moments when we see her actively working towards solving it are few and far between. As the book came towards the end, I could see the seams in the plot and take some pretty good guesses about where it was going. Now, will a middle grade reader see those same things I do? I’m guessing not. And at the end of the day, they’re the target audience for this book, not me.
If you’ve got a reader who loves adventure stories and is captivated by action scenes, this book is perfect. Or even if you’ve got a reader who leans away from action but loves ocean life, this could be a nice segue to a different genre. Certainly worth giving a try. You’ll know by the end of the first few chapters if this is the book for you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
You can find The Monster Missions on Goodreads
You can also buy The Monster Missions on Amazon. (Affiliate link)