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Characterize: Jim Dean from YA Yeah Yeah on The Monstrumologist

For me, the strongest characters aren't necessarily the most likeable. Quite often, in fact, I find the really sweet, pleasant characters to be on the boring side. Give me a good villain, an anti-hero, or a seriously flawed hero any day!

When it comes to recent YA heroes, there are few more flawed than Dr Pellinore Warthrop, title character in Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist series. From his introduction in The Terror Beneath, in which he receives two corpses from a grave-robber, it's quickly clear that he's someone who operates far outside of society's norms. The completely detached way in which he then goes about cutting a living Anthropophagus out of a dead girl's body is utterly fascinating, but certainly gruesome.

From reading the first half of that first book, Warthrop almost appears to be positioned as the villain. He's careless and hot-headed, as we see when he leads narrator Will Henry and grave-robber Erasmus Gray into an ambush. He's also ruthlessly pragmatic, shown by a stunning scene in which he kills Erasmus after the man is captured by the monsters they're hunting, reasoning that he's as good as dead anyway.

"I whipped my head around, turning my face from the sight as the doctor pulled the trigger, snuffing out the old man's screams of pain and panic in a single explosive instant. Hot speckles of blood and bone and brain splattered in my hair and against the back of the neck."

While Will Henry is, as you'd expect, rather traumatised by this event Warthrop barely seems to care, even asking the boy if he managed to count the number of monsters present at the nest. However it's notable later in the series that he won't kill in cold blood, even to ease the suffering of a dying man, telling Will "Simply because there is no hope for him, Will Henry, that doesn't mean I have to give up all hope for me."

Even though it's not actually Warthrop who responds to an accusation of being mad by saying "I'm a monstrumologist. It's a subtle distinction," the quote sums up the entire profession pretty well, and Warthrop himself perfectly. The great man is often thought of as crazy by people around him due to his sometimes unnerving methods. It's the introduction of Jack Kearns, another doctor who Will Henry describes as "a monster who hunts monsters" which gives us the first sign that Warthrop has his limits. Firstly, Warthrop actually soothes Malachi when Kearns taunts him over not avenging the death of his sister, then the monstrumologist's own recklessness is shown to be mild when compared to that of Kearns, who uses a prostitute as live bait to attract the monsters.

It's clear that the bond between Will Henry and Warthrop is a strong one. Will says towards the end of the first book.

"I did not then - nor do I now - nor ever - I will say it again - I do not think I protest too much - I never loved the monstrumologist.

The line is hollow, though, and it's clear as the series goes on that the older man had much more of an effect on the youngster than he is first willing to admit. In fact, the doctor realises this himself in The Isle Of Blood, as he softly says to Will Henry "Ah, I see. It is not monstrumology you love, then." It's a two-way street, with Warthrop himself saying in book three "You are the one thing that keeps me human." While it's uncharacteristic of the monstrumologist to admit to this, and he later claims he must have been delirious, it's a great summary of the bond between the two.

That's not to say the relationship is particularly healthy, as Will acknowledges to his friend Lilly in The Isle of Blood. "No, he doesn't beat me. He... he doesn't see me. Days go by, weeks sometimes... and then I can't escape him; I can't get away. As if he's taken a rope and tied us together with it. And it's him and me and the rope, and there is no undoing it." Warthrop comes to understand this throughout the series, and tries to tear himself away from Will at times, saying regretfully "I can't remember the last time the work made you sick" after learning that Will has killed two people who were following them.

At the end of The Isle Of Blood, it's Warthrop who shows his humanity, first with his "There is... nothing" response to finding out the secret of the magnificum, and then when he saves Will from committing suicide. It's a sign of how much his character has developed from the first book, but it's a perfectly plotted character arc. I think it's a long time since I've seen any character grow as much as Warthrop does in the course of the three books so far - especially an adult character rather than a teenager - and yet remain completely true to himself. That's why I think the monstrumologist is one of the strongest characters in recent memory.

Jim Dean is a long time fan of YA books who got hooked on reviewing books when he started writing for The Bookbag. Since then, he's crazy enough to run two YA book blogs, a general one at YA Yeah Yeah which focuses on reviews and author interviews and one devoted specifically to YA contemporary books. When not reading, he watches TV, goes to the theatre, and teaches maths.

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Characterize: Jim Dean from YA Yeah Yeah on The Monstrumologist + TIME