Review: Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

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.

To say I have mildly conflicting feelings about Only a Monster would be an understatement. I possibly should have waited a while to let those feelings settle before writing this review, but I just have to get them out there now. This book took a little while to hook me in but hoooo boy, when it got me it got me! I was absolutely absorbed and when I had to pause reading for a little while because of Christmas festivities I was just itching to get it back open.

I think for me, the power of this book is in the ending. The start was a slow burn for me, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to push through. The middle does a lot of set-up and worldbuilding and starts building a lot more on the characters and the lore and the powers in the book. The ending was just fantastic though. Gripping, powerful, romantic, poignant and almost perfectly wrapped up aside from a lot of questions which have me soooo ready for the sequel. Like this book could probably work as a standalone, but I am not upset that there's going to be more. I was just starting to get my head around some things and then woosh more questions and more drama and... gah!

To start with, I didn't really love Joan but she grew on me. Aaron was an immediate winner (I love the rich boy with a secret soft spot trope and Aaron is just a perfect for it). Ruth was rough and ready and a great support. Tom was a fantastic side character and I am so glad that he got extra dimensions and became a big part of the story. I'm conflicted about Nick, which I think I'm meant to be. Vanessa Len manages to build this love triangle that I am already invested in between Joan, Nick and Aaron without it being overbearing. In fact until the last 20% of the book, the romance is very much barely there, but I love the set up for the sequel so I am so onboard with it. I am so hoping the triangle skews in the direction I am supporting but the set up towards the end makes me think I may be a little disappointed on that front.

I can't say this book is the best I've read because there were definite flaws. Obviously the fact that I struggled to get into it at the start is one of them, and I think it's just because while the story and the characters and the world was standout, I didn't feel the same way about Len's writing. It wasn't bad, but at times I found the dialogue a little... unnatural? I also felt that there was a habit of repeating previous character's quotes to push the story forward and remind us of previous conversations and sometimes it just didn't fit for me.

That being said, Only a Monster is definitely a standout book, and one of the best urban fantasy titles that I've had the pleasure of reading in a long time. I love the darker undertones and the world building and I can't wait to dive a lot deeper into that with the two remaining titles in this series. 

Book released february 22nd 2022 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review