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Only a monster
2022
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Publishers Weekly Review
Len's deeply imaginative debut follows 16-year-old history buff Joan Chang-Hunt, of Chinese Malaysian and English descent, who has long spent her summers with her deceased mother's mother in London; when Joan was six, her Gran revealed that the Hunts are monsters who "hide in plain sight." This summer, Joan is looking forward to time with Nick, her presumed-white coworker and crush. But when Joan inexplicably loses a whole day, Gran tells Joan the whole truth: that the Hunts are monsters, that monsters are able to time travel by stealing hours from a human's life, and that each monster family has its own power. After her family is suddenly massacred and a hunt for surviving monsters is mounted, Joan partners with haughty 17-year-old Aaron Oliver, implied white, of a "cruel" monster family, to jump back in time and save their families--if they can. Including thoughtful introspection about Joan's multi-ethnic identity and status as a half-human, half-monster, Len carefully reveals Joan's new reality and moral struggle through an entertaining and carefully built trilogy opener. Ages 13--up. Agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. (Feb.)
School Library Journal Review
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.--Rebecca Greer
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