Only a Monster

Vanessa Len

Only a Monster
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Only a Monster

Vanessa Len

Don’t forget the rule. No one can know what you are. What we are. You must never tell anyone about monsters.     Only a monster would kill a hero. Right?    

Every family has its secrets, but the summer Joan Chang-Hunt goes to stay with her Gran in London, she learns hers is bigger than most. The Hunts are one of twelve families in London with terrifying, hidden powers.    

Joan is half-monster. And what’s more, her summer crush Nick isn’t just a cute boy - he’s hiding a secret as well; a secret that places Joan in terrible danger.    

When the monsters of London are attacked, Joan is forced on the run with the ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family who are sworn enemies of her own. Joan is drawn deeper into a world that simmers with hostilities, alliances and secrets. And her rare and dangerous power means she’s being hunted. 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.   

‘Vanessa Len’s world of monsters and heroes is like nothing I’ve ever read, utterly fresh and unique. It’s a page-turning YA adventure with breathtaking twists and a rich, dangerous setting. I loved the girl antihero at its centre, and the depth of the themes that it tackles. But most of all I love the way it turns the genre on its head. Put down everything and read it!’ - CS Pacat   

‘Only a Monster is captivating and unique and - dare I say it - utterly monstrous (in the best possible way). This engrossing debut will have YA readers longing to steal time just so they can devour the pages over and over again!’ - Lynette Noni


Local Melbourne-based author Vanessa Len has created a breathtaking debut in Only a Monster, the first in a new trilogy. I was completely absorbed by every detail in this time-travelling wonder, where the main character, Joan Chang-Hunt, is one of the monsters, not the hero.

During her summer break visit to her relatives in London, Joan volunteers at the historic Holland House, where she has a crush on fellow volunteer Nick. Unbeknown to Joan, she is about to discover that she is a member of one of 12 monster families in London. Each family has a special gift, and they can all travel through time by procuring part of a human’s lifespan. Soon all the quirky things about her Mum’s side of the family will take on new meaning. When Joan accidentally time travels, she is thrust into this hidden world, where Nick isn’t the boy she was about to date, he is the hero of legend, the Monster Slayer. If things aren’t complicated enough this now means her crush is trying to kill her.

With its lyrical text and descriptive evocations of the different locations visited along the timeline, this book fills your mind’s eye with wonderful imagery. You feel as if you are wandering down the streets and lanes of London in the then and now. Equally impressive is Len’s character creation, which is so deliciously detailed and nuanced that the lines between good and evil become very blurred, and you can be forgiven if you find yourself on the side of the monsters – I was.

For ages 14+.

Claire Atherfold is the manager of Readings State Library

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