A fantasy book that uses science fiction elements? Count me in.
Here’s more about Only a Monster
It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.
But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.
As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .
. . . she is not the hero.
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I’m a huge fan of science fiction books that dive into physics theories; quantum physics, dark matter, string theory, etc. I like the idea of these theoretical topics and how they are incorporated into science fiction stories. We’ve seen countless stories of time travel in our lives, but what I haven’t seen in my reading life up to this point is a purely fantasy story use time travel in a way that really defies anything I’ve read before.
Only a Monster starts off with Joan spending her summer vacation with her family in London. She’s been volunteering at a historic home that’s been turned into a small museum with her biggest crush, Nick. When Nick finally asks her out on a date, Joan is ecstatic and on the day of the date, she’s more than ready to meet her crush and have that awkward teenager relationship. For all intents and purposes, I thought this was going to be just another YA contemporary romance where it will be a cute, sweet toothache and nothing more. That is…until she touches an old man on the neck and ends up in the same place 12 hours later.
And then realization dawned on me that this book was going to be entirely different than what I expected. Joan comes from a family of monsters. No, not like the gruesome kind that frighten young children. They look like your average human. Their monstrous ability is that they can travel through time and they do it by stealing time off the lives of humans. You want to go back a day? You need to steal a day off the end of someone’s life.
Crazy, isn’t it?
This book was one of those books where I may not have read the synopsis well enough to really understand what I was getting into. I followed the hype I saw on bookstagram and honestly, I was rewarded. This was the most creative story I’ve read in a long time. Of course it has your typical YA tropes; a love triangle, a grumpy/sunshine duo, a forbidden love aspect, and a whiny teenager who keeps fumbling through all her bad ideas, but it was also written by debut author Vanessa Len, who is now one of my favorite authors.
Joan is a half-human, half-monster born who has been pretty shielded by her monstrous family for her entire life. Her first time traveling through time came to a shock for her and her ignorance about the world, its politics, the people, and the families made it much easier for the reader to follow along and learn from her. While I did wish for the occasional info dump (I know, it’s weird), I did appreciate being kept in the dark and only learning more about the world as I went along. That being said, I do want a better understanding of what’s going on in this world. The book ends at a pretty satisfying ending, but there’s still a few loose ends that I can’t wait to read more about in the next book.
This is one of those books where the twist within itself creating a bigger twist than the twist before. Honestly, I was surprised by how often my jaw was on the ground with each reveal. I think that’s what drove me to read most of this book because one chapter would end with a cliffhanger and then I would need to read the next chapter to see what happens.
The world itself was incredible. I’ve never read a fantasy book that includes time travel the way that Vanessa Len described it. I literally clutched my neck worried that some monster would come and casually steal life from me. It had this interesting moral aspect to it, do you continue to time travel knowing that you’re shortening life or do you not worry about it? I felt like this was something Joan grappled with throughout the book. She’s compelled to travel because of who she is, but she doesn’t feel like it’s right to steal life from humans. There’s some monster families who see it as their privilege, but being brought up in the human world it does become something Joan must face throughout the book.
While most of the book is plot-driven, there was a lot of care given to Joan and the way she handled the grief of losing her family. While I won’t get into specifics to avoid spoiling things, it made sense for her to recall that moment often throughout the story. It really conveys how loss and how grief takes over in the most inopportune moments.
Overall, this was a fantastic debut and it’s made me a fan of Vanessa Len’s work for years to come. I can’t wait to read book 2 and see what happens to Joan and the others in this adventure.
3 thoughts on “Only a Monster by Vanessa Len // Book Review”
Also a huge fan of this one and I can’t wait for the sequel. Love reading your thoughts and I want to re-read it again!
Loved this one! It was definitely not what I expected, but in a good way, and I love how quickly it pulled me in!
I loved this one too! It was not what I was expecting, in a good way, and I really liked how quickly it pulled me in!