I tried reading this once a couple of months ago, but put it down before getting too far into it. So why the five stars now? Because I picked it up again when I was in a sort of funky mood, and that was when I really connected with the story and couldn't put it down. [b:Last Night I Sang to the Monster|6413788|Last Night I Sang to the Monster|Benjamin Alire Sáenz|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327980334s/6413788.jpg|6602788] tells the story of Zach, an alcoholic, who's in a treatment facility for something that happened that he can't and doesn't want to remember. He has a certain philosophy about life:
I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes happy and on some people’s hearts he writes sad and on some people’s hearts he writes crazy and on some people’s hearts he writes genius and on some people’s hearts he writes angry and on some people’s hearts he writes winner and on some people’s hearts he writes loser. [...] It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently, he doesn’t like me very much either.
If I had to describe this book, I'd say that it was sad but beautiful. Not sad in a melodramatic tearjerker kind of way, but sad because Zach is just someone who feels sad deep down to his core, and you can't help feeling it along with him. Zach's voice reminds me of Charlie from [b:The Perks of Being a Wallflower|22628|The Perks of Being a Wallflower|Stephen Chbosky|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347142574s/22628.jpg|2236198] except he's older and not as naive - therefore I found him a lot more relatable. There are some people who deal with the ugly in the world by getting angry and destructive in an explosive way. This is the other extreme. Zach gets sad and retreats within himself, something that's familiar and understandable to me because I find that I do the same thing. Zach says "Okay" and "Sure" and "Fine" a lot. He stares at a stain on the carpet at Group sessions and while he likes hearing other people's stories, doesn't like to talk himself because he doesn't think of himself as articulate. He used to get angry and drank bourbon while going on long walks to forget. One thing that I think I learned from this book is that there's a difference between introversion and isolation; one is a preference, the other a choice. It's ok to not always want to be around people, but you shouldn't completely cut yourself off from the world. Reading this book was like therapy.
I have a lot of love for the other characters in the book, and Zach's view of them: from Adam, his therapist, to Rafael and Sharkey, his roommates, as well as the many of the other cast of minor characters that pop up over the course of the book. They're real, they're genuine, and they're not perfect.
Just a note on the title: I absolutely loved that the concept of "singing to the monster" wasn't what I expected. Before reading the book, I thought it referred to the event that got Zach into the center. The "monster" idea also evoked memories of another amazing book, [b:A Monster Calls|8621462|A Monster Calls|Patrick Ness|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1356015593s/8621462.jpg|13492114], though that story is very different from this one. But the idea of "singing" as a combative remedy for a personal demon is just really beautiful to me.