In "The Dead Thing," a middle-schooler struggles to deal with the aftermath of her parents' substance addictions and split. One day, her little brother claims he found a shoebox with "the dead thing" inside. He won't show it to her and he won't let the box out of his sight. In "The Last Conversation," a person wakes in a sterile, white room and begins to receive instructions via intercom from a woman named Anne. When they are finally allowed to leave the room to complete a task, what they find is as shocking as it is heartbreaking.
There are many inside jokes, echoes of earlier narratives, and tips of the hat that fans of Tremblay's previous work will have a lot of fun discovering. For those who are new to his work, the stories — a wildly entertaining mix of literary horror, psychological suspense, science fiction, and even a short epic poem about anthropomorphic animals living in a world that's threatened by a monster every three decades — will be more than enough to make them immediate fans ... Smart, self-aware, fun, creepy, and strange, The Beast You Are is even better than the outstanding Growing Things — and it further cements Tremblay as one of the finest voices in modern horror fiction as well as dazzling innovator of the short form regardless of genre. This collection shows an author at the peaks of his powers doing everything he can to push the boundaries of the short story.
Weird, self-referential, expertly told ... The most frightening stories in the collection also happen to be the most philosophical ... Often, they end abruptly. But what seems to matter, in all these stories, aren’t the specifics of a grisly end but the emotions they conjure, the way they tinge our own reality after we turn the page.
The Beast You Are takes its title from the longest and least successful piece, a novella in verse that mashes up Animal Farm and The Hunger Games...Tremblay's style does its part ...but the payoff takes too long to arrive ... The 14 short stories, though, are dazzling in a variety of ways. A couple of them have actual monsters but more often, characters work at jobs that make no sense. Or they go to parties where they feel unwelcome. Or they retell the story of finding a dead loved one, slightly altering the details each time until we're not sure if the alterations are lies or an attempt to keep the loss' wound open and sore ... Tremblay has spoken admiringly of George Saunders' disquieting work and he dedicates one of his Beast stories to author Shirley Jackson, who knew about creating unease. Somewhere in there is what Tremblay is attempting — and the difficulty of pinning it down probably means he has accomplished exactly what he set out to do.