P.J. Canning on 21% Monster and his favourite adventure books for older readers

21% Monster by P.J. Canning. Book cover and author photo.
This month our Macaw subscribers are taking a wild ride with 21% Monster, a fast-paced, action-packed sci-fi adventure. We were completely hooked by this high-octane page-turner - and also very moved by the story of Darren Devlin, a misunderstood and sensitive young teenager who we think many readers will relate to. It's a fantastic read, perfect for fans of Alex Rider. And with a cracking cliff hanger at the end it's left us desperate to read book two in the series! Here author P.J. Canning tells us about what inspired the book, writing on the bus, and which adventure books for teens and tweens he recommends you read next.

What inspired you to write 21% Monster?

A packet of Monster Munch crisps. People say, ‘You are what you eat’. So, that made me think about an organisation using food to make someone monstrous. The idea grew from there.

Are any of the characters inspired by real people?

I am a scientist and I have worked with some scientists who can be a bit like Marek. Only a bit like Marek, though.

If you had access to a SQUID, how would you use it and where would it transport you?

I would SQUID inside Area 51. It is a top secret military base that a lot of people think the US government is using to hide aliens. I’d like to check, just in case...

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Darren?

Darren has some huge challenges ahead and it doesn’t help that Marek isn’t entirely honest with him about a few very important things.

Darren’s enemies have plans that are far bigger than he or Marek can imagine. The boys are also going to meet someone else who wants to take down their enemies, but she has a very different opinion about how and she really doesn’t appreciate the boys trying to ‘help’.

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I don’t choose an age group. I just write a story and other people decide what age they are for. I wouldn’t write it differently if I thought it was for adults.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I wrote a lot of the book on the bus home from work with people reading it over my shoulder.

What other sci-fi or adventure books for young people would you recommend our subscribers read next?

The best adventure series I’ve ever read is The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. It isn’t sci-fi. It is set in ancient times, but Paver invented a whole world from scratch which is similar to what a lot of Sci fi writers do. The world is really interesting.

The first book, Wolf Brother, is fast, tense and exciting. It is about a boy called Torak who can talk to wolves. The wolf he befriends is one of the best characters I’ve read. The bits from the wolf’s point of view are brilliant and funny.

The book also has one of the best first few pages of any book I’ve read.

And finally, would you rather be 19% alien or 21% monster?

I really don’t know... Every time I’m asked this, I have a different answer.

I’m sure there are a lot of different kinds of alien out there in the universe. So, I suppose it depends which alien and which bits of their abilities I’d get.

But I love the idea of having super sensitive hearing and excellent night vision. So, I’ll go for 21% Monster.

Or, maybe not... I don’t know!

Copies of our 21% Monster pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our bookshop.org page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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