Perijee and Me

Perijee and Me

Perijee and Me was written by Ross Montgomery and first published in 2016. It tells the heart-warming story of a little girl who befriends an alien that washes up on the beach. The novel stands alone and so you don’t have to read any of Montgomery’s other work to fully appreciate it. This review is based on a copy that was provided to me by Faber & Faber.

Caitlin leads a very lonely existence. Although she desperately tries to make friends, the kids at school tease her mercilessly because she can’t read very well. Even her parents don’t really understand her dyslexia. As they’re both scientists, they want their girl to be just like them and never seem to really understand that she’s trying her best.

Everything changes on the night after a huge storm when Caitlin finds a strange white prawn on the beach. She rescues the struggling creature in the hope that she can raise it and is shocked to discover that it has the ability to shapeshift. As the creature eventually settles in a humanoid form, Caitlin names it Perijee and decides to try and help it learn about the world. However, Perijee’s hunger turns out to be insatiable and he grows bigger with every meal.

Caitlin loves Perijee like a brother but her parents don’t understand. In a misguided attempt to protect her daughter, her Mum calls the military. It’s then that everything changes. The terrified Perijee grows a hundred feet tall and attacks the capital city. Although the whole world hates and fears the Monster, Caitlin remembers him as he used to be. She sets off on a daring quest to reunite with Perijee to calm him down…

I’ve had a bit of a bad run of books lately but I’d just like assure you that this isn’t another negative review. Quite the opposite in fact. Perijee and Me is by far the best novel that I have read this year so far. It was just one of those books that really just touches you to the core. It’s heart-warming, funny, sad, uplifting and sometimes even a little scary. For me, it was really as close to perfect as a middle grade novel can get and is definitely one that I’d recommend to any young reader.

The early chapters really brought to mind the likes of Lilo and Stitch and The Iron Giant. The story is told in first person by a very lonely little girl. Caitlin has been dragged from her comfortable home to live on an isolated island at the whim of her father. Try as she might, Caitlin just can’t fit in and she’s slowly come to realisation that none of the kids in her school want to be her friend. Because of this, it’s not surprising how quickly she grows attached to Perijee.

The story’s strongest themes are friendship, family and the meaning of “home” and some of its most touching scenes are in the first third of the story. Perijee starts out as a blank slate, seemingly helpless and as reliant on Caitlin as she is on him. Although this may feel a little familiar, there is always a slight note of uncertainty. Caitlin always views Perijee’s behaviour as innocent, justifying his murder of a flock of seagulls as misunderstanding, but the reader is never quite so sure. However, their friendship is simply adorable and it certainly does seem as though Perijee is fond of Caitlin.

The story’s tone rapidly changed after Perijee starts to grow. After this, the book gained more of the feel of a Kaiju movie, with the world falling into utter chaos as the “Monster” Perijee has become lays waste to the capital city. This was the point where I started to realise that this novel was something special. The world building here is simply stunning. It’s visual and vibrantly imaginative and (best still) everything is presented to the reader with no need for exposition. Perijee and Me can be a little scary at times. In her journey, Caitlin encounters cattle rustlers, crazy cults and lynch mobs but still the novel maintains an incredibly positive tone. Hope and faith play an important part in her narrative. Caitlin is completely motivated by her need to help her friend because she can’t stand to think of him alone and afraid. Because of this, the story never feels too grim. Every bad thing that happens is just a small set back and Caitlin’s always quick to turn these to her advantage.

Really, it’s Caitlin’s infectious charm that was my favourite thing about this story. Her outlook to life is just so overwhelmingly positive that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. I adored her self-certainty. Caitlin never allowed herself to be put down by the overwhelmingly negative attitudes of the people around her. While people are quick to tell her she is wrong about Perijee, Caitlin always sticks to what she knows is right. She was the only person to know the alien, how can adults pretend to understand him when they’ve never met him?

I really admired Caitlin for her loyalty, perseverance and bravery and Montgomery does an excellent job of making her sound like a believable ten year old (this is harder than you’d think). Caitlin’s dialogue is often laugh out loud funny as she really does see the world in a unique way. Even in the novel’s most serious moments, the tale is peppered with amusing anecdotes and some brilliant mini-adventures. I won’t spoil anything here but Caitlin’s “plan” to steal a yacht must be read to be believed.

I also loved how fleshed out the rest of the cast were. Through their interactions with Caitlin, the reader gains a deep understanding of the motivations of her Fi, Frank and Caitlin’s parents. Being ten years old, Caitlin frequently misunderstands these subtleties. She’s blind to just how selfish her father is and can’t see how hard Frank tries to protect her but these subtexts are buried in there like treasures for the reader to find. I really hate it when an author tries to spoon-feed their audience but Montgomery treats them like the intelligent people that they are. He never tells the reader how to feel and his character motivations are always completely understandable. You even felt a bit sorry for the leader of the Obsidian Blade, even though you really couldn’t agree with her actions.

Well, I think that I’ve covered everything. Perijee and Me is, quite frankly, amazing. It’s a deep and enthralling middle grade novel that’s packed full of adventure and heart. Caitlin is a lovable protagonist and I was totally rooting for her every step of the way. I really can’t wait to read more of Montgomery’s work. I hadn’t heard of him before I read this book but I’m glad that I’ve discovered him now!

Perijee and Me can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

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