... engaging and challenging ... Oloixarac jumps into this saturnine literary tradition and adds to it an eccentric, intersectional feminist despair ... the reader is alerted to the fact that Oloixarac is abandoning any ambition to deliver an easily agreeable protagonist, an interesting goal in an age where relatability is the coin of the literary realm — though if one happens to be Latinx and/or someone who has experienced an 'evident defect,' they might find these flip accounts of their identity cringeworthy before the first chapter has ended. Nevertheless, press onward: even if the book will supply a yet richer hoard of insults, Oloixarac offers an illuminating critique of the business of literature .... The ending, and Oloixarac’s solution, is not entirely satisfactory ... What Oloixarac calls for is a heady counteroffensive against 'death,' which I stand by: writing as a commitment to people and some version of love, without descending into pabulum or cliché. Though Oloixarac herself appears skeptical or even nihilistic about the possibility of a contemporary literary culture that practices the humanistic values it often preaches, particularly when it comes to women writers of color, it bears noting that such a world does exist — you just have to look for it ... Mona’s message is often difficult to discern amid the emotive blankness and mythical creatures, but it is there, and rich, and real. We need literature that is born of a practice of recognizing others, forged in the heat of personal and emotive risk, and wrought from intimate, collective, and passionate struggle. It may be that such vaunted goals are tricky to realize within the mega-publishing houses that arise today like Ragnar’s monster, but, thankfully, there are still folks out there who love both literature and the human beings who read and write it.
Mona [...] leans wholeheartedly on crime fiction. Oloixarac is an exuberant genre-blender ... Mona reads like Rachel Cusk’s Kudos on drugs ... Mona is, for example, both resilient and hedonistic—or rather, she’s resilient through hedonism ... Mona’s theorizing could put some readers off, or make them long for Elmore Leonard’s snappy, comic crime writing ... But the novel’s headier passages nonetheless do important work, helping Mona slowly explain to herself, then accept, her complicated reactions to her rape and her vulnerability as a woman. This nuanced acceptance helps Mona succeed. So does Oloixarac’s genre-mixing, which leads to originality of thought and technique. If her novel’s abstractions are extremely literary, its acknowledgment that total safety isn’t achievable owes a debt to generations of crime fiction.
There are provocative presentations on the state of literature; erotic interludes; and drunken proclamations about the nature of art—all tied together by nothing more than Mona’s memories and desires. It ends with a truly out-of-left-field sequence and a brutally intimate revelation that doesn’t feel wholly earned by the 200 pages that precede it. Lucky, then, that Oloixarac is so damn funny and insightful that Mona is rewarding nonetheless ... This may be a structurally minor work compared with her previous novel, but Oloixarac has profound things to say, and a great many of ways of saying them.