Book Review: Monsters, motherhood, and abandoned malls abound in Chris Gooch’s In Utero

In Utero cover

Lonely kid Hailey is dropped off at a holiday camp at – of all places – an abandoned shopping mall. But today, there’s a new girl. Her name is Jen, and together she and Hailey break away from the group and start exploring the mall. Meanwhile, two boys from the camp are also making their way around the building, and they’ve discovered something frightening…

Starting off with an almost kids-on-bikes vibe, before descending into fantastic monster-fare, Chris Gooch‘s In Utero is a brilliantly realised graphic novel. Though Hailey and Jen are centered, there’s much more at play here, as the boys’ discovery sets off a chain reaction of events that eventually comes crashing down on the new friends. Their bonding is integral though, with both navigating difficult – though very different – relationships with their mothers. Jen never knew hers, while Hailey’s is working through a tough divorce, leaving both girls with plenty of feelings to push through, blissfully unaware of the soldiers and scientists in hazmat suits pulling up at the mall.

In Utero also looks beautiful. Junji Ito fans will definitely see artistic nods to the horror manga great, and the wonderful 3D glasses style of art, with red and blue washes, feels like an homage to classic monster movies and kids magazines, as well as a clever way to evoke the disorientation felt when looking through them. It’s a really great stylistic choice.

Suitable for older kids – if they’re old enough for Stranger Things, they’ll love this – In Utero is a solid graphic horror novel. Accessible, beautiful, and emotive, it packs a lot into its short page count. Perfect for monster fans, and for anyone who likes their horror with a hefty dose of sci-fi and feelings.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Chris Gooch’s In Utero is out now through IDW Publishing/Penguin. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.

Jodie Sloan

Living, writing, and reading in Brisbane/Meanjin. Likes spooky books, strong cocktails, and pro-wrestling.