to make monsters out of girls by Amanda Lovelace
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018; 168 pp
Reviewed by Kelly Lucero
Amanda Lovelace is the author of the Goodreads Choice Award-winning collection of poetry, The Princess Saves Herself in This One. She was named Goodreads Poet of the Year in 2016 and is a USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller. While Lovelace’s latest collection of poetry to make monsters out of girls captures its reader through its candid discussion of abuse and victimhood, it leaves something to be desired in its delivery.
to make monsters out of girls walks its reader through the narrative of an abuse victim. The collection is split into three sections: “monster-boy," “monster-girl," and “sun-heart." The first section details the abuse that the speaker (monster-girl) faces at the hands of monster-boy. She opens the book with “it’s much too late to repent, sweetheart,” writing, “this is your / word-wrapped coffin. / & this— / this is how i will finally bury you.” With the imagery of a funeral, it becomes clear that the goal of the collection is for the speaker to bury her abuser. Further, in the following poem, “- this is your unmarked grave.” the speaker directly addresses monster-boy by name, but it has been redacted, indicating a refusal to speak his name and ultimately indicating that he will not be granted immortality through her words.
The section titled “monster-girl" discusses how monster-boy has turned the girl into a monster as well (hence the title of the collection). The speaker takes accountability for her own toxicity, stating, “in this one, there are plenty of / times when red becomes a little bit wolf after the / beast comes for her." The title of this poem, “- i don’t excuse her & you shouldn’t either.” indicates to the reader that the speaker recognizes her own culpability and should not be excused for her own actions, an important aspect often overlooked in situations of abuse.
The final section, “sun-heart,” introduces a third character in the narrative: sun-heart is essentially the savior of the tale. He shows up to teach monster-girl that she can indeed be loved. While many of the poems suggest the speaker’s understanding that only she can save herself, sun-heart seems to counter this idea. monster-girl states, “there’s no one / you should trust / more than / you trust / yourself.” However, this epiphany does not come until after sun-heart has arrived and proven to her that she is loveable. This section suggests that the girl needs a man to save her from her abuse, which is ultimately a harmful notion.
The message of to make monsters out of girls by Amanda Lovelace is quite clear: a victim is worth more than their abuse. While the message is an important one, it gets lost in its delivery. Lovelace’s writing is simplistic, often leaving the reader wishing that she had used more metaphor and imagery and had woven it more intricately to create complex poetry. Instead, the collection relies entirely on its subject matter and not the writing itself. As a result, the collection is accessible to a broader audience but lacks a complexity that could make it more interesting.