May 26, 2016 • Cee • Reviews

Monsters A Love Story

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay • June 7, 2016 • Putnam Books (Penguin)
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Stacey Lane feels like a monster. Tommy DeMarco might be one.

Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries.

Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret.

As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s. About desire, love, grief, parenthood, sexual politics, and gender, Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.


I received this book for free from Putnam Books for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “The phone rings.”

You say Frankenstein, and my ears will perk up.

But don’t be fooled, Frankenstein plays little part in Monsters: A Love Story; the classic, a feminist reimagining in verse, just happens to bring the two main characters—Stacey Lane, a suburban mom/poet, and Tommy DeMarco, a Hollywood movie star—together to bring Stacey’s book to life, and they develop a very dysfunctional relationship built on assholery and drinking.


  • Stacey Lane wrote a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein in verse called Monsters in the Afterlife.

Stacey Lane’s feminist reimagining of Frankenstein called Monsters in the Afterlife is optioned for a Hollywood film. Every time these characters discuss the book, the English major in me wanted more. I appreciated the negotiations and process of adapting Stacey’s book into a screenplay. The bits of discussions on gender ideals and what the characters in Stacey’s book represent made me yearn for more.

Readers get to see how passionate these characters are about the Frankenstein reimagining. Of course Stacey will defend her book and the characterization, but who thought Tommy DeMarco, the charming playboy movie star, would care so much about the project? He’s committed, and it was great to see that since I expected somebody who was flighty and didn’t care.

However, I wished the Frankenstein feminist reimagining was woven throughout the story and was delved into more—kind of like it’ll parallel what’s going on with the main character. (If the book did do that, it didn’t do a great job of connecting the dots.) I don’t understand why the characters even discussed the meaning of Stacey’s book if it wasn’t reflected in Monsters: A Love Story. It just feels like a lost opportunity that could’ve helped readers understand these characters more through the construct of the feminist reimagining.

  • When Stacey and Tommy’s relationship takes a turn, that was the moment Monsters: A Love Story had my undivided attention.

Stacey and Tommy bond when they adapt Stacey’s book into a screenplay, and their relationship grows when they start drinking and sharing things to each other. Now, their relationship is a purely shallow and a physical one that’s not at all serious. Eventually, the relaxed relationship turn into something more—something that Stacey is not ready for (she’s still grieving over her husband’s death).

When Stacey and Tommy’s relationship takes a turn for the worst (which happens in the last 100 pages), Monsters: A Love Story had my undivided attention. Stacey’s refusal to commit gave me a rare insight into her character, and I enjoyed watching that play out.

  • Instead of the Hollywood star being the asshole, it’s the suburban mom who takes the title.

Who would’ve thought a suburban mom would be the asshole instead of the Hollywood star? Here’s this suburban mom, who’s grief has consumed her to the point she can’t commit to anything, and here’s this movie star who would be characterized as incredibly arrogant and turns to be level-headed despite his alcoholism. It’s a great reversal of what you usually assume.


  • Monsters: A Love Story falls into a pattern of redundancy that doesn’t serve any purpose.

Three things that happens a lot: Stacey and Tommy drinking ridiculous amount of alcohol without any repercussions, Stacey waking up from sleep or from a nap, and somebody calling the other an asshole.

It’s extremely noticeable when it happens over ten times throughout the course of the book. And did those scenes add any conflict or necessary characterizations? Not at all. It just seems like those scenes are there to end a scene and move on to the next. I found myself getting irritated because it was so redundant. If half of those redundant scenes were cut, nothing would’ve been lost. It just went on for too long, and it didn’t add anything to the book.

  • Characters were all over the place, and never felt fully developed.

None of the characters felt like they were present in the book. They had no lasting impression on me. They were too cardboard and cliché. Stacey’s characterization feels so odd and all over the place, and for somebody who’s broken, I expected to feel something—sympathy, frustration, whatever—for her. I didn’t care for Stacey or Tommy because they didn’t feel real, and they lacked the emotional connection I expected. It’s one of the reasons why the supposedly “witty” banter didn’t work because it was completely shallow.

Should you read Monsters: A Love StoryI’ll give a maybe. Monsters: A Love Story is not about Frankenstein or feminist ideals, nor is it a love story you’ll be swooning over. This book is about two messed-up people who do nothing but drink and call each other assholes while trying to bring a Frankenstein feminist reimagining to life via a film. It’s about the self-destruction of a person during grief. Nothing about Monsters: A Love Story made me feel attached to the characters or the story because the lack of character development wasn’t there, and redundancy made me feel like I was aimless circling around these shallow characters. I’m kind of bummed the Frankenstein bit didn’t come full circles in this book.


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