Only a Monster

HarperTeen. (Only a Monster: Bk. 1). Feb. 2022. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063024649.
Gr 9 Up–This debut novel centers on Joan Chang-Hunt, who discovers that her grandmother’s joke of the Hunt family being monsters is the not-so-hidden family secret. Joan misses a dream date with fellow museum volunteer Nick after a run-in with a neighbor and realizes 13 hours have elapsed in a blink. She hurries home and learns monsters travel through time by taking life from humans. When Joan is attacked by fellow monsters, Nick quickly dispatches them all, turning out to be the legendary human hero in the stories from her childhood. He warns Joan “I will kill you myself” if she steals time from a human again. Hiding in 1993 with fellow monster Aaron Oliver, Joan decides to change the past, a task Aaron claims is impossible. Taking place mainly in modern-day London and in 1993, this novel is equal parts fantasy, adventure, and caper as Joan plots to change the past and time itself. Joan is mentioned as Malaysian on her father’s side, with other main characters depicted as white, including the rest of the Hunt family. Side characters are of various ethnicities. Joan’s internal struggle with what it means to be a monster and the cost to humanity makes her a relatable protagonist. This first installment in a trilogy brings excitement into the world of fantasy with distinctive, well-thought-out worldbuilding.
VERDICT Unique plotlines and characterization will have readers rooting for the monster; this is a must purchase for all libraries.

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