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My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Paperback – February 14, 2017
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“Drawn with Bic pen on lined notebook paper, this moody and ravishing graphic novel takes the form of a sketchbook diary. Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, 10-year-old Karen Reyes investigates the suspicious death of her glamorous neighbor and finds troubling clues lurking close to her own home. … An eerie masterpiece of the monsters around and within us.”
- The New York Times ― Critics’ Pick
“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is not only Ferris’s first graphic novel but also her first published work. ... Yet her mastery of comics, her pyrotechnic drawings, and her nested narratives are already placing her among the greatest practitioners of the form.”
- The New Yorker
“This extraordinary book has instantly rocketed Ferris into the graphic novel elite alongside Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware. You see, she's produced something rare, a page-turning story whose pages are so brilliantly drawn you don't want to turn them.”
- Terry Gross, NPR: Fresh Air
“A thrilling and surprisingly profound novel ... The book is a fine balance of stunning artwork and terrific writing.”
- Chicago Tribune
“One of the most profound, ambitious and accomplished creative works to appear in any medium this decade. ... Rarely have words and pictures worked together so seamlessly in service of such a complex narrative.”
“The novel tackles race, gender, and what it means to be 'monstrous' in big and small ways. It could not be more relevant to today’s climate.”
- Mother Jones
“No one has ever made a comic like Emil Ferris’s assured, superhumanly ambitious two-part debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. ... It threatens not merely to exceed established standards of excellence, but to set new ones.”
- The Guardian
“An ambitious, emotional, beautifully illustrated exploration of a 10-year-old girl’s experience growing up late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an astounding debut, weaving an intricate web of plot threads that keeps the reader compelled from beginning to end.”
- The A.V. Club
“An extraordinary literary experience that tackles questions of racial, sexual, cultural, professional, and class identity with aplomb and aesthetic glory. Welcome to the canon, Ms. Ferris.”
“Each page of the book is a small masterpiece: detailed, passionate, leaking genius. Ferris’s artwork bullies and commands the reader’s attention, each page bringing her to the brink of exhaustion because the struggle between art and words is so great, and the whole is so sensorially overwhelming.”
- The Los Angeles Review of Books
About the Author
Emil Ferris grew up Chicago during the turbulent 1960s, where she still lives, and is consequently a devotee of all things monstrous and horrific. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute.
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The narrator in Ferris’ stunningly illustrated graphic novel, like myself as an adolescent, seeks escape from her feelings of loneliness and alienation by immersing herself in fantasies of thrillingly compelling supernatural beasts. Ferris, writing from the perspective of the narrator, Karen, creates an equally enticing world of fantasy by blending stories and imagery from Karen’s experience as an urban Chicago preteen in the 1960s with depictions of the horror magazines and paintings Karen adores. The book , formatted to resemble a lined notebook sketch pad, brilliantly perpetuates the illusion that the reader is stepping into the imaginary realm of a creative and extremely perceptive young girl. Detailed interpretations of monster magazine covers and famous art works such as Fuseli’s “ The Nightmare” are juxtaposed with gruesome depictions of Karen’s neighbors and playfully doodled sketches of Karen as a trench-coated child werewolf. As Karen explores her interest in art, Ferris’ illustrations reveal a variety of styles—from the neon-lit grotesqueries of Ernst Kirchner and the German Expressionists to the luridly seductive pulp art of popular comics and the grittily unflattering portraits of Robert Crumb. Unlike many graphic novels, Ferris’ work focuses on inner conflicts, the dangerous secrets festering inside neighbors, schoolmates, and family members that threaten to emerge in monstrous form when exposed.
Secrets connect the lives of Karen and the people she knows. During her attempts to unravel the mystery of her murdered neighbor Anka, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Karen discovers secrets within her family and within herself. A growing awareness of her own sexuality and the tragic revelation of her mother’s fatal illness lead her to find strength and solace in her imagination. The monsters she loves, draws, and writes about are her salvation.
Ferris’s depiction of Karen’s monster fantasies and homoerotic stirrings while struggling with family tragedies, violence, and prejudice, though at times grim, is nevertheless inspiring, infused with wit, a sense of childhood resilience and untarnished insight. Like the enduring, undying creatures of the night that Karen idolizes, Ferris’ graphic novel (the first in a series) fascinates and enthralls, giving readers a tantalizing bite that leaves us craving more.
Well-written and deeply immersive, this piece drew me into the world of Karen, a monster-obsessed kid struggling with sexuality, race, poverty, and the violence of her surroundings. It is as dark a work as I've read in comics yet has a jaunty sort of zest for life in it that constantly pulls the narrative along and saves the reader from being overwhelmed by some of the disturbing elements within. It's especially astonishing as the first work from a writer/artist, working in seclusion for over six years. It reminds me, in all the best ways, of the confessional work of Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar, of the strange life-stories of Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes and Jeffrey Brown. It also reminds me of my own childhood, of how different a child can view the world, though my own early years were far less fearful. Ferris's illustrations also show an abiding love not just for horror movies (and particularly for our mutual Universal monster favorite, the Wolf Man) but for the great horror magazines of the 1960's from CREEPY and FAMOUS MONSTERS though the gory WEIRD and TERROR TALES varieties. Perhaps also some of the Spanish/Mexican horror mags, too, I'd guess.
This is a great book. I can see it speaking to those that struggled with gender issues, but its scope is well beyond that, a love poem to lonely, different kids everywhere. I eagerly await the second part of the story, which will be published in early 2018. Go to Amazon and browse through a few pages, if you wish. It is not a story for children (and, honestly, I swore aloud when I hit the pages that will keep it out of most school libraries) but it speaks to the damaged child in each of us, I think.
It is a privilege to buy and enjoy this book.