Author Liz Kay’s debut novel Monsters: A Love Story, is a tale of what can happen when two people strongly attracted to each other, and more similar than they care to admit, adamantly deny their true feelings by shielding behind other people.
What makes a monster? It’s a question that Liz Kay extends with her recent book’s main characters, Tommy DeMarco and Stacey Lane. Stacey is a poet, whose novel in verse Monsters in the Afterlife is proclaimed a feminist treatment of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The book has caught the eye of Hollywood rising star Tommy DeMarco, who is intent on doing a film adaptation of Stacy’s Monsters. Her inability to write a single line since the sudden death of her husband Michael, affirms her certainty that she cannot afford to waste this opportunity, particularly for the financial benefit that the project could mean for her and her two young sons.
Kay quickly establishes the attraction and subsequent dive into intimacy when Stacey meets Tommy for the first time on the island of Turks and Caicos, where they meet with other Hollywood personae to discuss the plans for the impending film. From the beginning, the banter between Stacey and Tommy is insulting and at times it seems to even invoke a sort of dislike and hatred for each other. However, this is the start of a love story that is a far cry from sentimentality and established perception of how two people in love are supposed to act.
As the story unfolds, the meaning of the title becomes crystal clear. Stacey and Tommy are indeed monsters in their own selfish way, not only to each other but also to other people who venture too close to them. In truth, Kay is telling us that Tommy and Stacey’s feelings for each other are ironically true and real, even while hiding under the disguise of a casual affair.
However, their different lifestyles and their inability to tell each other the truth, catapults them into wrong decisions and wrong alternate relationships, while still occasionally stealing time to indulge in each others company. Monstrous? Undoubtedly, manipulating and using others in order to hide what they feel for one another and swiftly avoid complications that neither want nor care to have.
The narrative flows from Stacey’s point of view, so we don’t get a chance to see what Tommy thinks and feels aside from his actions towards Stacey, which sometimes seem to convey a sense of lightness, superficiality, and downright meanness towards her and their relationship. Giving us insight into Stacey’s mind, Kay allows her main character’s poorly made decisions to be put on display as actions born out of fear that Tommy doesn’t feel as strongly for her as she does for him.
The way they purposely and continuously hurt and wound each other, conversely as their feelings deepen, end up in turn hurting other people. A sort of reverse osmosis of what the development of an intimate relationship should be. But Tommy and Stacey are not ordinary people, and Kay clearly states that from the get-go.
With their twisted mutual patterns of hurting each other by indulging in other relationships on the side while their feelings for each other continue to grow. They never hesitate to throw caution to the wind when they want to be together, even when Stacey begins a relationship with another man.
Monsters: A Love Story is not Liz Kay’s attempt to impose yet another tear jerking traditional fairy tale between two people of noble character and mutual attraction on readers. Instead, Tommy and Stacey are two deeply flawed, troubled, and clueless individuals who show their growing attraction by mutually throwing insults, lying, hiding their feelings, and sleeping with other people. Kay keeps the narrative amusing. However, the crass language repeated ad nauseam throughout comes across as a touch irritating, although it is in character with the core of Stacey and Tommy’s unusual relationship.
So, what makes a monster? Falling in love with the impending fear of not being loved in return? Putting on masks to justify decisions taken with complete disregard for the feelings of others? Lying not only to others, but also to ourselves? If this is what makes monsters, than Tommy and Stacy’s uncertain relationship is Frankenstein’s creature. Something that perhaps should never have existed in the first place and threatens to destroy its own creators.
Liz Kay’s Monsters: A Love Story is certainly not a read for everyone. And while the characters may at first sight appear frivolous and just plain cruel, the novel brands upon readers the certainty that in the end, these monsters are only human and not immune to risk quite a few things for love.