The Monster Under the Bed is a standalone novel by Penny White series author Chrys Cymri, and it fundamentally is a coming-of-age saga. Michael must face numerous trials to decide what matters most to him and what type of adult he wants to become; however, I think the story can also be interpreted as an allegory about faith (although I may be reading a lot into it) with a little less pointed symbolism than The Chronicles of Narnia.
I have to warn readers that Michael’s anger and distrust stem from parental neglect and abuse. (Honestly, from what information is provided in the narrative, neither of Michael’s parents seems to have wanted children.) The boy blames himself for his parents’ behavior and doesn’t understand that even though he made some questionable choices, he cannot take ownership of other people’s actions. (Of course, he’s still only 10-12 at the beginning of the story.) None of it is explicit, but it may be uncomfortable or triggering for some readers. Michael is also used to men entering his mother’s life who have no interest in her tween son (His father is no longer in the home for a variety of reasons.), so he has learned to trust no one. Jonathon is the first visitor who puts the boy’s needs first and dedicates time to breaking through the hard emotional shell.
Jonathon opens Michael’s world to the magic of life and vitality. He shows the youngster dragons, unicorns, a powerful gryphon/sword dance, and, most importantly, unconditional love; however, Michael can’t trust that his mentor can accept the disturbing things in his past and eventually pushes him away, when he faces the reality that Jonathon has no inherent darkness.
I realize I’ve made The Monster Under the Bed sound heavy and depressing, and while some passages are not escapist reads, the imagery and fantasy elements are beautiful. Cymri’s description of unicorns flowing back to the moon along the path of moonlight and the powerful intensity of the gryphon dance on the sands delighted me, and if the idea of dragons choosing their leader by telling jokes doesn’t entertain you…well, this book probably isn’t for you.
I hinted at interpreting the story as a faith allegory which means I should probably back some of that up. The Monster Under the Bed can be read solely as a fantasy adventure / coming-of-age story, and it’s satisfying; however, I took enough literature classes in college (modern languages not English, but it’s the same thing in other languages) to look for more (even if the author didn’t intend for deeper meaning). Jonathon struck me as almost a Christ-like figure in his goodness, lack of judgment, and unfailing kindness, but he’s more simply a spiritual leader who comes to show Michael a better way. Magic is faith; we are all born with it, but many of us forget it and push it aside as we get older and demand logical explanations from the world around us. The monster under Michael’s bed can be interpreted as the negative things we think keep us from faith and salvation,. Even if this analysis seems a little hokey, I assure you the adventure elements are strong enough to make it a solid read.
Coming off the Penny White series, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Chrys Cymri’s The Monster Under the Bed. Would I enjoy a story without my beloved vicar? While I didn’t identify with the protagonist (I can’t say I’ve even been a disenfranchised tween boy…that I know of.), I empathized with Michael and eagerly experienced his adventures with Jonathon. The final pages are open ended enough that there could be more adventures in this world, but I would be fine if Michael’s journey ended here. A choice was made, and the angry boy took his first steps towards becoming a powerful and emotionally healthy young man. My heart sings for him.
4.5 Armies of Loyal Stuffed Animals out of 5
Author: Chrys Cymri
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, LLC
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