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  • Writer's picturehaleylynnthomas22

I'd Reset the Timeline to Read Never a Hero by Vanessa Len Again (book review)

GENRE: YA Fantasy
LENGTH: 510 pages

After resetting the timeline to save her family in Only a Monster, Joan and Nick find themselves on the run from the Monster Court. Hunting them is Joan’s former ally, Aaron, but neither Nick nor Aaron remember her.

Despite not remembering the previous timeline, Nick and Aaron’s core personalities remain the same. Nick is still protective with a strong moral compass, while Aaron maintains that hard exterior with a softer interior. Joan, meanwhile, is dealing with the grief and trauma that comes with having watched her family die and now being one of the only people living who remembers the events of that timeline. I am always drawn to grief stories. While Joan’s pain was difficult to read, I think it would have cheapened the story to gloss over her emotions regarding the events of the first book.
The first book had a bigger focus on developing Joan and Aaron’s enemies to friends to maybe something more relationship. This novel, in contrast, has a lot more focus on Joan and Nick and their ill-fated romance spanning across multiple timelines. Where we got pieces of their relationship in book one it was largely overshadowed by Aaron. I know love triangles tend to divide readers, so those who were Team Aaron may not enjoy this book quite as much. I personally found myself missing Aaron because I think he and Joan are a better match than her and Nick, but given Nick’s role has the hero it was important he get his chance in the light.
I do want to quickly mention this novel sees the return of two other pretty big players from the first book as well as a previously minor character. We have Joan’s cousin Ruth, their ally Tom (and his dog Frankie), and Tom’s husband Jamie (one of the only other people who remembers like Joan). I loved this mismatched team in the first book so I was so happy to have them back in the picture. It was especially touching to see Tom and Jamie together in this book after everything Tom did to save his love in the first book (honestly forget the Joan-Nick-Aaron triangle, just give me more Tom and Jamie).

This novel, like the first, is told from the third person perspective of Joan. Thematically the book deals with the topics of grief and the butterfly effect (they are time travelers, after all). Despite being a middle novel in a series this one is anything but filler.
Admittedly, the first 175 or so pages did remind me a lot of the plot of the first book (except with Nick taking Aaron’s place). After that point, however, it diverges and the stakes feel like they’ve been tripled when compared to the first book. The first book left a lot of unanswered questions about the origins of Joan and Nick and this sequel fills in of all those gaps beautifully. You may be thinking that means there isn’t any substance left for the finale book, but I can assure you that the ending has a cliffhanger that promises to lead into a dangerous and thrilling third book.

FINAL THOUGHTS It’s rare for me to give a second book a 5 star rating even if that’s what I gave the first. I had a lot of anxious anticipation going into this because Only a Monster was one of my top books of last year and such a stellar debut. I needn’t have worried, however. If you enjoyed Only a Monster then I absolutely encourage you to continue the series. Len nailed the tricky task of writing a middle book in a trilogy.

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