My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t dig this one. The art style, the flow of the story…none of it was for me, though clearly it’s not bad – as evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews and ratings.

10-year-old Karen comes home from school one day to find that her upstairs neighbor, Anka, has been murdered. Anka didn’t entirely have her wits about her, having experienced a great deal of trauma during the Holocaust, but when her death is ruled a suicide, even Karen knows there’s something afoot. Now, with her mother sick and her brother acting strangely, monster-loving Karen sets out to discover the truth about what happened to her neighbor.

This book takes a long while to settle in. The story gets there eventually, and becomes easier to follow, but I really felt like I jumped into something from nowhere. I think Ferris also makes a lot of unnecessary comparisons and analogies both through her text and her art that do not contribute much to the story. It’s an twisting narrative to try and track, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, once I finally sunk into it, it was over: the big secret is not revealed, the story not complete, with a second novel to be released (looks like it’ll be out September 22, 2022…five whole years after the first publication!). Sadly, I don’t think it held my attention well enough to have me waiting for volume two with bated breath.

I really didn’t enjoy this art style. I can 100% acknowledge the talent – the pen and lined-paper drawings are nothing short of impressive, but it really didn’t do it for me. Based on the cover, I was kind of expecting more of a dots/comic book style, which I might’ve preferred, especially in this noir/crime/horror genre. Still very impressive, but notably not my cup of tea.

Anka’s story is the most riveting piece of this book, and I do believe it was always intended to be the focal point. Her life history and her story in Berlin is wildly interesting to follow and includes some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book. The point of tracing her steps is, of course, to find motivation and suspects for her suspicious murder. Anka lived a troubled life, to say the least, and there are plenty of people in her story with motive. I would read this snippet as a full novel, easily. It’s Karen that kind of ruins it for me.

I know Karen is supposed to be representative a lot of things; her narrative is supposed to connect the past and present – but I just don’t like her very much. While she’s pitiable, she’s not relatable. She’s passing through life rather than living, which makes her a better vehicle for telling Anka’s story. I feel bad for saying it, though.

It’s really hard to criticize this book in a way that makes sense, because I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Well that was meaningful because…” – and I don’t disagree. That’s the hard part: I can see what Ferris was trying to do here, I just didn’t really like it. I guess that’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time. I can see why people enjoyed this, but I can also see all the reasons why I didn’t. It was 100% not what I was expecting, and I’m definitely upset that I’m in it for two books if I want the full story (that was unexpected, and I’m very sorry for the books original 2017 readers!!).

So no, I’m not recommending this one today. I hope I have a better review for you next Tuesday! Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

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