“Saving Montgomery Sole” by Mariko Tamaki (2016)
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
Page Length: 228 pages (hardcover edition)
In sight not see
black light not be
This is the curious instruction that comes with the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet that Montgomery Sole buys online for $5.99. It’s also the next topic of discussion at Mystery Club (members: Monty and her two best friends, Thomas and Naoki), dedicated to the exploration of the strange and unexplained.
When Monty wears the Eye of Know, strange things happen, all targeted at people she despises. Maybe it will help Monty take down her newest enemy, a preacher who has come to save her town from so-called sinners—sinners like Monty’s moms. Or will its mysterious powers mean the end of the friendships Monty cherishes most?
Mariko Tamaki has created a thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest story about family, religion, ignorance, and other unsolved high school mysteries. (description from Goodreads)
Saving Montgomery Sole follows the story of a girl named Montgomery (aka “Monty”) who runs a mystery club with her two best friends Naoki & Thomas, where they discover the unknown together. Monty feels that she is powerless and is tired of dealing with bullies and ends up ordering the “Eye of Know” in order to handle these issues. The mysterious amulet helps her take down bullies, but she ends up consequently becoming one of the villains she so despises because she’s hurting people and judging them without really getting to knowing them.
Monty is a little “out there” and unique, but that’s what I liked about her character the most. She’s “old school”, loves solving a good mystery, and enjoys retro music and vintage clothing. Monty does her own thing and tries to stay in her lane to avoid the jocks, popular girls, and typical high school drama. I loved Monty’s little side notes throughout the novel of her likes, dislikes, and questions about the universe. It made the book entertaining, but also gave more depth into her personality and character growth. Though Monty and her friends don’t really fit into any social group I loved how they stay true to themselves. They have a tight friendship are very supportive of one another.
The first thing that really struck me about this book is how diverse the characters are (POC, Multiracial, LGBT) and I appreciated that Tamaki showcases a variety people in the story and also makes it relatable to a wide audience. It tackles a lot of issues such as high school, coming of age, family, finding yourself, among other things that are discussed in the book. I loved the way her moms are written and how their personalities are showcased as well as their support of Monty and her sister Tesla (such a cool name!). Her moms sacrificed a lot for them both, and it shows how much they love their daughters.
I also thought it was interesting how Tamaki discusses religion in this novel as it seems omnipresent as the presence of the Reverend White looms all over Monty’s town. While a reverend is supposed to voice messages of hope he spews messages of hate and I like how the problem came to some kind of resolution in the end.
While this novel is contemporary its equal parts magical realism because of some the supernatural occurrences that happen in the book. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and Monty’s story of coming to terms with herself and society, will be able to resonate with its readers.