Review: The Eyes Are the Best Part by Monika Kim

The Eyes Are the Best PartThe Eyes Are the Best Part by Monika Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Eyes Are the Best Part is definitely one of the most memorable and engaging debut novels I’ve ever read!

Monika Kim’s haunting ideas moved me, and shall now live rent free in my brain. This story sucked me in from the start and refused to let go. I was thinking about it all the time, even when I wasn’t reading it.

In this story we follow Ji-Won, who has just entered her first year of college. She lives in small apartment with her Umma and her younger sister, Ji-Hyun. Her Appa has deserted them for another woman, leaving Ji-Won as the logical next head of household.

Umma is a mess, barely holding it together enough to make it to her job at the grocery store, and Ji-Hyun is just 15-years old. Ji-Won is feeling a responsibility to care for them both.

It’s not just her family situation causing her stress though. Ji-Won also didn’t get into the college she once dreamed of with her best high school friends. She ended up losing those friends because of that.

Ji-Won’s on her own now, at a new school, and she feels very alone. She doesn’t have anyone she can open up to about all the pressures bearing down on her. She loves her sister and her Umma so much, but she needs to keep strong around them.

When Umma brings about her new boyfriend, a startlingly-obnoxious man named, George, Ji-Won can hardly believe this is her life. George starts coming by the apartment, and then beginning to stay there more often than not.

It’s during this time of incredible stress and change that Ji-Won first starts thinking about the eyes. In particular, blue eyes, just like George’s. She desires them. She dreams of them. She wants to consume them; all the blue eyes.

It’s with no immediate plan in mind, more an act of opportunity, that Ji-Won first proceeds with these overwhelming desires. Once she starts though, it’s empowering, fulfilling, and impossible to stop. Ji-Won is now the ruler of her world. It feels good.

This was incredibly immersive. Ji-Won is such a well-developed character. I loved following her story, being in her mind was a slightly disturbing place to be, but I got it.

I felt what she was going through. I empathized with her as I would a friend and frankly, I was more than happy to go on this f*ed up journey with her.

I loved the relationships that Kim created here, particularly between the sisters. Their connection was palpable. I could feel how much Ji-Won cared for her sister, even when she was being bratty. She wanted to protect her and shelter her.

It wasn’t just that relationship though, every side character that Ji-Won interacted with, I felt like I knew the ins-and-outs of them. Kim took great care when creating this whole cast and it shows.

We get a couple of students, Alexis and Geoffrey, that Ji-Won meets at school and I liked watching those friendships evolve. That whole avenue of the story went in a direction I was sort of expecting, but I still loved it.

I also thought the pace was spot on. It was perfectly-crafted for maximum impact, that’s for sure. Once the spiral begins, she went quickly and with great flourish.

I’m obsessed with the quality of Kim’s Horror imagery most of all. The body horror was fantastic. I read a lot of body horror and this, it got me. I was cringing. I was exclaiming things out loud that I can’t type here. It was perfect. I never knew what vivid description was gonna come next.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the exceptional social commentary/social horror aspects. I felt this was so well done in that regard. In expressing Ji-Won’s experience as a Korean-American young woman in modern-day California, Kim got the points across she needed to make.

This is an exciting story. It’s exciting in its own right, in the fact that it’s a gripping, disturbing story of feminine rage, but it’s also exciting because this is Monika Kim’s first novel. I’m so excited for more from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Erewhon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I’m so happy that talent like Monika Kim’s exists in the world. This book will def be on my BESTS List for 2024!!!

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *