Wow. Just… wow. We Deserve Monuments is a debut novel. But you wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s just that well written. A beautiful, heart-wrenching coming of age story, Jas Hammonds wove a tale of generational trauma, love, racism, homophobia, and what really matters. This was recommended to me by Goodreads because I read Pet (by Akwaeke Emezi), and I at first marked it as TBR because of the cover. Then, I read the premise. It was at this moment that it became an instant read for me. I was not disappointed. Avery is at a pivotal moment in her life. Avery, a biracial queer teen, is going into her senior year at high school, and life is looking good. She has good grades, immense college prospects… and a grandmother with cancer. One day, a letter arrives: Mama Letty, Avery’s grandma, is dying. And quickly. So Avery’s family moves from D.C. (note this location, it’s a little detail later) to small town Bardell, your typical Southern MAGA town. As soon as they arrive at Mama Letty’s house (which Avery hasn’t visited since she was 5), the chilliness pouring off of both Avery’s mom and Mama Letty is noticeable. Avery immediately goes into survive mode: head down, don’t make any waves, and I can get out of here fast. But then she meets her new neighbor, Simone, and by extension, the daughter of Bardell’s most prominent family: Jade. As the three’s friendship gets tighter, Avery discovers that maybe her life wasn’t so great in D.C., maybe getting into a top college isn’t what she wants, that maybe she feels more at home in MAGA town than in D.C.. And maybe, there’s more secrets that her family and Bardell hold than both of them let on.
This book was a slap in the face. But like, a good slap in the face. The writing, the plot, the characters, the setting, it was all so… perfect. Avery, Simone, Jade, and Mama Letty all felt so real. None of the conversations felt like Hammonds was trying to be “Hello fellow kids. I’m hip and cool like you- no cap!” Avery’s slow but steady foray into what she really wants from life felt like I was going right down with her, and her attempts to talk with Mama Letty felt so awkward, but so authentic at the same time. Speaking of Mama Letty, she really made the story what the story is. Now I, a privileged white person, know nothing of generational trauma. I will most likely never experience it. So reading about it in this story was eye opening. I felt like I was dealing with the grief of a wife and mother who had her husband stolen from her– and his killers got away with it. But I also felt like Mama Letty failed in so many ways as a mother. I mean, her daughter literally had to be raised by neighbors because of the alcohol abuse that she endured. What I loved most about this whole story was the way it was written. Hammonds has such an unforgettable style of writing that made the story. I cried. I laughed. My heart hurt. And honestly, that’s the sign of an amazing author!
Bottom Line: An unforgettable story about trauma, healing, and growing up. AKA: a must read.