“Only A Monster” is a supernatural romance riddled with ethical dilemmas

By Sophia Monastra

I’m the last person to give love advice, but generally speaking, if a guy kills your family, kills several other people, threatens to kill you if you time travel with mystic powers you only just learned you have, and has this prophecy that he’s destined to wipe out your entire race, this might be a red flag for your relationship.

To be fair, Joan didn’t know that her boyfriend Nick is the Hero, a mythical figure destined to end the line of monsters. She also didn’t realize that everyone in her family are monsters with the ability to steal life from humans in order to time travel. After her family is killed, Joan manages to escape to1993 with Aaron, the son of a rival monster family and yet another person who has tried to kill her. But not even the ability to travel through time can prevent the massacre. The timeline has an annoying habit of self-correcting. 

If Joan wants to undo her family’s deaths, she’s going to have to find the transformatio, an artifact that might not even exist. Joan will bring the rest of her family back, even if she has to steal from the king of monsters himself.

The strongest part of the novel is Joan herself. Vanessa Len crafts a heroine willing to fight to bring her family back while also keenly aware of the more monstrous side of their actions. Joan is conflicted, and the ties to her family, her love for Nick, and her own horror over what she’s doing propel the story. I do find that, possibly due to the third-person past narration and relatively simple prose, I feel distant from Joan’s feelings. As a result, the emotional aspects of the story come off as shallow. 

The beginning feels a tad rushed, as Joan doesn’t seem to have time to process the concept of stealing time or come to terms with the fact that her mom’s family is full of monsters. Other than that, the pacing is brisk. 

The world-building is well done, with the important concepts of stealing time and time travel explained early on. I wish a little more had been explained about how the family powers worked since I didn’t grasp that concept until midway through the book. 

While it is initially discouraging, I appreciate that the romantic plotline did not end as expected. Since this is the first book of a trilogy, this is subject to change, and there are the seeds of a potential love triangle. Several plot threads are left unresolved, again, signaling that this is only the beginning of a longer story. 

Ultimately, “Only a Monster” is a solid, gory take on classic young adult romance. Len sets up an interesting world and gives her heroine a complex moral dilemma that warrants further exploration in future books. 

I give this book a 6.5/10.

“Only a Monster” is available in the Cedarville University Library

Sophia Monastra is a freshman Environmental Science major and writer for Cedars’ Arts and Entertainment section. She lives in mortal fear of longboards and enjoys reading comics, writing fiction and experiencing deep emotions about teenage mutant turtles.

Images courtesy of Vannessa Len’s website

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