Only a Monster / Vanessa Len / Book Review


Joan's family is full of monsters. They can do things that nobody else can do. Things appear out of thin air around them. Things disappear, too. Joan has spent every summer with the "monster" half of her family since she was little, and she has some small talent in this disappearing gift herself. This summer, she's back at her grandmother's house in London, surrounded by the monsters she loves. She loves her eccentric cousins, loves her job at the historic Holland House, and just might love one of her coworkers, too--or at least like him enough to think about him all the time. And Nick likes her back, too.

But then everything changes. Joan learns the truth about her "monster" relatives, and they're not just eccentric. They don't just have the ability to slip object in and out of existence. They're truly monsters, as they've always claimed, with abilities that exceed anything she would have thought. And with humans as their prey.

And Nick isn't just a cute coworker. He's a legendary monster hunter, out to save humanity from the monsters hiding right under their noses. And he'll do anything to keep humanity safe--even if that means betraying Joan.



This book brought me back to the streets of London, to the great-houses-turned-museums, the history smashed into the modernity, the little coffeeshops and bustling tourists traps. I wish I could be back there again! Len does an amazing job of interweaving story and place, of making the setting a vibrant part of the plot itself, full of bright and vibrant possibilities.


Proper Enemies to Lovers A lot of books feature an enemies-to-lovers romance these days. This trope has surpassed the love triangle in popularity. With that being said, most of these "enemies" only just nod toward the trope without really embracing what makes enemies-to-lovers so fun and so popular. Not so here. Here, the enemies find themselves at the heart of an age-old dispute. It is monster versus monster hunter: definitely forbidden love. And that's the way to do this trope justice. Vaguely competitive rivals is fun and all, but this embraces what it means to be enemies--and what it means to be falling in love despite that. Vanessa Len really does capture a sort of life-or-death Romeo-and-Juliet vibe, with a fair bit of fated antagonism thrown in.

Knowledge Journey It's been a long while since I was properly on a journey with the main character. Recent fantasy has moved away from this: from the character who only has her toes in a magical world before getting thrown straight in. And I like that--I like starting out at the same place as the character, knowing nothing, and then learning along with her as she gets to know the rules of her world. I like when a character's knowledge base is broken apart and put back together piece-by-piece. I like being along for the ride. It's an old-school fantasy mode, and I love it.

Levelheaded Lead I more often than not find myself annoyed by a main character's "strong personality" and/or subsequent bad decisions. Here, however, every decision that Joan makes is reasonable--even if I wouldn't necessarily make the same choices. I found myself really enjoying Joan Chang-Hunt for this reason. She's a good character who does her best without throwing anybody under the bus, without harboring any drama-causing secrets, and without making overly-emotional and incredibly melodramatic decisions. None of the usual irritants I face when reading a YA MC apply here--and that makes reading Joan's story all the more compelling and fun.


Len's writing is by no means terrible to read, but some readers will undoubtedly get bored of the repetitive sentence structure. The style if full of simple statements and simple writing. It's not complex and vividly beautiful prose, but it still does the job well enough. I didn't mind; others might. Simple Writing

Plots that revolve around prophecy always feel a little convenient and grandiose to me. This high-prophecy element present in this book is another thing that makes it feel like old-school fantasy, though this time in a less positive way. Destiny is at play, and that's fine. It's just not my favorite trope. High Prophecy

Time travel plots can be a bit confusing, and that's definitely the case here. The travel mechanics were straightforward, but the more poignant and more pointed details were obscure. How does it work? There are characters at different ages all in the same time, and it doesn't make sense exactly how or why they choose to return to a different time. Why do they choose to consistently congregate in the "present"? The characters also always manage to find whomever they are looking for, no matter what time they are in. How does that work? If these monstrous personages can travel wherever and whenever, what's to guarantee the person they are looking for will be in London at the specific point on the timeline that a character is searching for them? The implications are convoluted and mind-boggling. I just don't understand. Timeline Confusion



Those looking for another enemies-to-lovers romance after Shelby Mahurin's Serpent and Dove will love this book. Those who like particularly British fantasy like Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard will sink right into this world of shifting times and timeless history.


Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: February 22, 2022
Series: Monsters
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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