My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
Published by Fantagraphics, 2017
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Styled as the diary-cum-sketch-pad of a horror loving 10-year-old girl, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a playful, meta, and engrossing read. Taking place in 1960s Chicago, there is an element of mystery at the story’s core, with our protagonist determined to uncover the circumstances surrounding the death of her enigmatic upstairs neighbour, Anka – a troubled Holocaust survivor.
Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Ferris uses the lens of this tumultuous time period, Karen’s singular narrative voice, and the secrets uncovered from Anka’s past, to explore themes of xenophobia, class divides, intolerance, abuse, grief, and homophobia. With such heavy themes, and a focus on outsider characters living on the fringes of society, you’d expect things to be wholly dark and depressing, but our protagonist’s unique world view and charismatic approach to storytelling injects just enough light to keep things balanced.
Being a graphic novel, the artwork is equally important, and thankfully it lives up to the high standard of the text itself. Ferris plays with colour, style, layout, and form to create an authentic scrapbook feel, adding an extra layer of immersion to the reading experience.
In a lot of ways, the book also serves as a love letter to horror and art, the heroine’s passion for both influencing her own experimental and fluid approach to drawing. This is also seen in the often surreal imagery she employs, and the use of the character’s pulp horror magazine cover recreations rather than traditional chapter breaks.
I will say that, despite its generous length, this doesn’t really serve as a complete story. Many threads are left open, with questions still to be answered. Given that this is volume one, that’s no surprise; just be prepared to commit to the follow-up if you want the whole picture. Given how much I enjoyed this, however, I for one will have no hesitation in reaching for volume two when it’s released later this year.
If you’d like to give My Favorite Thing is Monsters a go, you can pick up a copy from Book Depository by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!