Emil Ferris shows off her storytelling and artistic talent in My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Volume 1. In her graphic novel, she creates the art journal and diary of Karen Reyes. Karen is a 1960s Chicago pre-teen, balancing the difficulties of her own adolescence with a family that’s only marginally stable. And what she wants most in the world is to become a werewolf, like the ones she and her older brother watch on TV.

As the story begins, the Reyes’s upstairs neighbor Anka has been shot dead. This woman was kind to Karen, but she wasn’t a typical neighbor. She struggles with sanity, and imagines people follow her. Karen is a nosy kid, curious about how the killing happened. So she dons her brother’s fedora and raincoat, becoming a girl werewolf detective.

If you think this is all too precious for you, I promise it’s not. Karen lives in a rough neighborhood. Her brother might or might not be a good guy. And things in her life devolve from there. Karen processes what she sees and her feelings through the notebook – journal – diary. The world she lives in is scary and absolutely adult, despite her youth.

My conclusions

All I can say is, “How soon is the next volume coming out?” I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages, and I’m glad I waited until now to read it. Less time to wait for additional brilliance from Ferris!

It’s not easy for an adult to inhabit the mind of a kid, but Ferris handles it with mastery. She writes this first-person account in a crystal clear voice. I loved Karen, and felt and saw the pain of her situation on every page.

I’m also intrigued with the mystery of Anka, which combines a shifty husband and a Berlin past. Karen’s suspicious feelings seem right on target.

And let’s talk about the art. Ferris has a unique style, drawing with cross hatching. I think it’s gorgeous, even though it’s hard edged. Her shadows convey fear, and the pin up girl style reflects Karen’s conflicted life. She appreciates beauty, especially female, and yet she loves a scary monster story. Ferris blends all of these aspects, introducing a wide range of characters. She also adds renderings of famous art, since Karen and her brother haunt the art museum. The dimensions of this work are vast.

If you like a quirky kid, stories of growing up too fast, and fantastic art, give this graphic novel a whirl. You won’t regret it!

Pair with Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson or Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, two other charming stories of young women managing their complex lives.