This year, I finally got around to reading some Hunter Shea. I started with Creature, which I had a personal connection with, thanks to the lead character suffering from Ehlers Danlos Disease like myself. I loved that book and was spurred to read more of Shea. Though I wasn’t as enthralled with the title I followed it up with (Slash), I had learned I liked Shea’s writing and wanted to continue exploring his worlds.
Enter Misfits. When I heard about it dealing in Melon Heads, I figured I was getting into some sort of a story about a town suddenly flooded by deformed monstrosities too hungry to hide in the woods any longer. Though that didn’t end up being the plot here, I still had the right idea of what to expect (more or less) from the Melon Heads. They’re ugly inbreds that have no problem eating people.
As fun as my story prediction could have been, I’m glad Shea had a different idea for this. What I imagined would have been on the level of Slash – a creature feature of just gruesome murder. Honestly, I’m not much for that. So to learn that Shea had a more intelligent design for Misfits was a happy discovery. Here’s your synopsis:
“During the height of the 90s grunge era, five high school friends living on the fringe are driven to the breaking point. When one of their friends is brutally raped by a drunk townie, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Deep in the woods of Milbury, Connecticut, there lives the legend of the Melon Heads, a race of creatures that shun human interaction and prey on those who dare to wander down Dracula Drive. Maybe this night, one band of misfits can help the other. Or maybe some legends are meant to be feared for a reason.”
The way the story begins is rough, as to be expected. But it also gives the book an immediate emotional leverage on the reader, similar to the way I connected with Creature. It is in these designs that Shea shows his powerful force in fiction, blurring the lines of what is possible and what’s imaginary, all while keeping that ardent passion alive. You immediately care about these characters – this group of misfit stoner kids – and what they are willing to do to protect and avenge their friend. Then there’s the unexpected humanity of the Melon Heads to take into consideration; though violent cannibals, they have a fierce protection and loyalty to their own, finding ways to use us in their secretive survival. I can’t go into detail on that remark, but trust me when I say these aren’t one-dimensional monsters at play. Though simpleminded, they’re also intelligent in a guerrilla-warfare sort of way.
I found that I loved this book from the prologue and onward. During those final fifty or so pages, I kept trying to guess how Shea would conclude things – I just couldn’t figure it out! I was betting on Shea to surprise me, and luckily he did not disappoint. The ending is unexpected and oddly charming in a horrific sort of way. And possibly best of all, it leaves a sequel invitation. Shea even promises more to come in his Acknowledgments. You can count me in!
Misfits is as wild and gruesome as it is emotionally turbulent and deeply satisfying. It sinks its claws into you right from the start and never lets go!
Review by Aiden Merchant – This book was provided as an e-ARC (via NetGalley) and paperback (via Smith Publicity) by the publisher for review consideration.
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