Review: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris

29069374Verdict: My heart hurts.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Graphic Novel; Horror, Noir

Published by Fantagraphics, February 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge. Full-color illustrations throughout.

I adored my reading experience with this. I don’t read enough graphic novels because when I do, I more often than not love every second of doing so. This one was particularly stunning

I am also struggling with reviewing graphic novels because I find describing what works for me very difficult. In this case I could not stop staring at the wonderful way it is all laid out. This is Karen’s story and she happens to tell it in a series of scribbles in her notebook and the graphic novel mirrors this. I found the art beyond perfect for the story. I especially adored her renderings of classic paintings that were just a wonder to behold. I spent hours looking up the originals and comparing them to Emil Ferries renditions. I have seen people reacting negatively to the art but I thought it was just perfect. I loved the little splashes of colour and the way different people were drawn in different styles.

Karen’s neighbour, a woman who has survived the Holocaust, has died and Karen is convinced something is amiss. So she does as one does and dresses up in classic detective gear to try and solve the case. But at the core, this book is mostly about Karen growing up and trying to find a place for herself. Her relationship to her older brother is wonderfully drawn and his character intrigues me to no end. I also found the way in which the flashbacks to Anka’s experience during World War II were incorporated, extremely well done and I thought the book dealt with this period in time that literature has used extensively in a really interesting and nuanced way.

Beware though, because this book is dark. Very very dark with themes of not only xenophobia and anti-semitism but also of sexual assault and forced prositution and homophobia and everything else nasty. But if you can stomach these things, this is well worth your time. I cannot wait for the next book in the series.