cover image My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Two

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Two

Emil Ferris. Fantagraphics, $39.99 (412p) ISBN 978-1-68396-927-3

The much-anticipated conclusion to Ferris’s dazzling debut proves a triumph. In it, readers are invited deeper into the mind of Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old girl in 1960s Chicago who sees the world through a kaleidoscope of fine art, classic movie and pulp fiction monsters, and mystery. Karen now lives with her older brother, Deeze, a brilliant but troubled artist in danger of being shipped off to Vietnam. As she continues to investigate the death of her neighbor, Holocaust survivor Anka, she becomes enamored with Shelley, another monster-loving girl. Together they form a secret society called the Eternal Guild of the Benevolent Undead. The free-flowing plot develops organically as Ferris lavishes attention on Karen’s obsessions: visits to art museums where she pictures herself climbing into the paintings, conversations about philosophy and paranoia with a Greek chorus of street people, and expeditions into the depths of her spooky old apartment building to unearth family secrets. “All my family does is hide stuff from me,” Karen gripes, even as she discovers that the adults in her life have reasons to bury the truth. Ferris coaxes images of uncanny depth and vitality from ballpoint pen on lined notebook paper, and the dialogue carries similarly offbeat beauty: “Mama used to say Dante’s voice was like butter melting off a honey factory.” Elevating gritty urban realism to the heights of her protagonist’s flights of fancy, Ferris brings forth a gloriously subversive world of the imagination. Agent: Holly Bemiss, Susan Rabiner Literary. (Apr.)