“If the vacant, robotic gaze of the beauty queen has ever seemed sinister to you, Ms. Wuehle provides a possible reason . . . Wuehle pursues her gonzo premise with satirical gusto, mixing together some curious brew of Robert Ludlum and Don DeLillo . . . [A] lively debut.” — Wall Stree Journal
“A deeply introspective novel with a notable metaphor for reinvention after trauma in the form of a weaponized pageant girl.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Readers sturdy enough to peer into this glittering, multifaceted novel will find weaponized beauty reflected back.” —Publishers Weekly
“Wuehle is catching a wave of nineties nostalgia and retrospective media criticism, in large part ushered in by the immensely popular podcast, “You’re Wrong About” . . . As much as Monarch is a conspiracy-theory-thriller, inviting the possibility that an amorphous, terrible something in one’s environment might be located and made legible, it is also a story about piecing together the fuzzy impressions of childhood, watching as they form into a coherent whole the way a photo develops in a darkroom. Wuehle is masterful . . . An artisan; one senses while reading her that she has absolute control over the page—could conjure any emotion or image with startling concision, no matter how surreal or uncanny.”— Lily Houston Smith, Chicago Review of Books
“Intoxicating and strange . . . A novel that’s as addicting as it is heartbreaking.” —Sophia June, Nylon, One of the Must-Read Books of the Month
“Fiercely intelligent and sharp.” —Sam Franzini, The Daily Nexus
“Bizarre delight of a debut novel . . . A natural page-turner.” —Lily DeTaeye, Little Village
“Wuehle’s net of insights, jokes, linguistic will-o’-the-wisps push the definition of surreal . . . Wuehle is a poet writing a thriller, and the cerebral, beautiful poetry intoxicates the story . . . A maze of lyrically breathtaking imagery and storytelling that rivals the stepping-stone pathways across the dream-river in the films of Charlie Kaufman (see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synechdoche, New York, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, etc) . . . ‘90s pop culture, espionage, occultism are all bonded in an amalgam of feminist folklore for the 21st century.” —Jesse Hilson, Pink Plastic House
“Monarch is a novel of ideas welded to the structure of a page-turner . . . Darkly comic, cynical, thought-provoking, and strange, Wuehle’s novel is a rare offering.” —Mara Krause, ZYZZYVA
“In this riddled pageantric, insomniac, photographic, and university-infused world of eating disorders, triple suicides, astral projections, enigmatic bruises, and uncontrollable impulses, Candice Wuehle’s poetic and narrative gaze on everything she Midas-touches is eyelined, eyeshadowed, polished, Norwegian lip-penciled, and loose powdered with her devilishly inventive, singularly imaginative beauty and a devastating wry sense of humor. Her brilliance in MONARCH will lacquer, enamel, and wax you and turn your mind inside out like a monarch butterfly macerated in emulsion.” —Vi Khi Nao, author of The Vegas Dilemma and Swimming with Dead Stars
“A wise, unsettling, and multifaceted masterpiece, MONARCH succeeds on all levels—as a portrait of an endearingly dysfunctional family, as a shadow history of Y2K and the hidden power structure underlying and undermining contemporary life, and as a profound exploration of the extremely dicey prospect of being a self in a body in the world. Unless you’re hiding in an underground city or frozen in a kryokammer in the desert, you’ll want to run out and get this one right away!” —David Leo Rice, author of The Dodge City Trilogy, Angel House, and Drifter: Stories
“Don DeLillo can only dream of being Candice Wuehle, who’s wrenched the maximalist postmodern novel from the hands of old white men and given it an enticingly feminist spin. MONARCH is a smart, weird, funny gut punch, the kind of book that will blister your brain in the best possible way.” —Rafael Frumkin, author of The Comedown
“This book is really quite sinister, and I mean that in the Latin sense—MONARCH takes the left-hand path through a chilling (and, if you’re honest with yourself, quite real) landscape as Jessica, a decommissioned MKUltra-esque beauty queen, traces back to her origins as such. Along the way, she has to tell the true from the false, which can be difficult when you have a closet full of alters and a lot of gruesome off-label memories. Underneath it all is a question you can probably relate to even if you aren’t the progeny of a cryogenically preserved mother and a father who lectures on Boredom Studies: How do we know which of our reactions belong to us? How can we tell apart the conditioned self from the one we actually live with, especially when we’ve been trauma-trained into not looking too closely at certain facts? What happens when our frozen selves start to thaw? If you’ve always been suspicious of the institutions of childhood, beauty, and sentimentality, this book is for you. If you crave a frosty narrative voice with the whip and torque of a bitchy gymnast, this book is for you. It will make you smarter. And it will also upset your schema for the world—but you’ll be glad, I promise.” —Sarah Elaine Smith, author of Marilou is Everywhere
“Candice Wuehle had me at ‘Jon Benet Ramsey.’ The poet’s new novel follows a former child pageant star as she discovers ties to her previous glory and a deep state government program. Add an occult wellness guru to the mix, a heaping of mommy issues, and a queer romance for taste and this might just be my ideal book.” —Kerensa Cadenas, Thrillist
“What does it mean when you’re not who you thought you were? Alternately: the categories of “beauty queen” and “sleeper agent” have, historically speaking, not had much overlap. Candace Wuehle’s forthcoming Monarch poses the question: what if someone could lay claim to both of those job descriptions? Throw in a touch of the occult and a bit of punk rock and you have an intriguing combination.”—Tobias Carroll, Tor.com
“A sinisterly fun novel . . . For fans of Stranger Things mixed with Little Miss Sunshine. It doesn’t sound like it works, but it sure as hell does.”—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
For readers of Women Who Run with the Wolves and The Body Keeps the Score, Monarch is both fiercely intelligent and compellingly readable.
The cryptic worlds of Hanna and Stranger Things mingle with the dark humor of Dare Me in this debut novel about a teen beauty queen who discovers she’s been a sleeper agent in a deep state government program.
After waking up with a strange taste in her mouth and mysterious bruises, former child pageant star Jessica Clink unwittingly begins an investigation into a nefarious deep state underworld. Equipped with the eccentric education of her father, Dr. Clink (a professor of Boredom Studies and the founder of an elite study group known as the Devil’s Workshop), Jessica uncovers a disquieting connection between her former life as a beauty queen and an offshoot of Project MKUltra known as MONARCH.
As Jessica moves closer to the truth, she begins to suspect the involvement of everyone around her, including her own mother, Grethe (a Norwegian pageant queen turned occult American wellness guru for suburban housewives). With the help of Christine (her black-lipsticked riot grrrl babysitter and confidante), Jessica sets out to take down Project MONARCH. More importantly, she must discover if her first love, fellow teen queen Veronica Marshall, was genuine or yet another deep state plant.
Merging iconic true crime stories of the ’90s (Lorena Bobbitt, Nicole Brown Simpson, and JonBenét Ramsey) with theories of human consciousness, folklore, and a perennial cultural fixation with dead girls, MONARCH questions the shadow sides of self-concept: Who are you if you don’t know yourself?
As Jessica moves closer to the truth, she begins to suspect the involvement of everyone around her, including her own mother, Grethe (a beauty queen turned spokesperson for a Norwegian cryochamber device built to halt the aging process for suburban housewives). With the help of Christine (a black-lipsticked riot grrrl babysitter and confidante), Jessica sets out to take down Project MONARCH and the operatives who programmed her. More importantly, she must discover if her first love, fellow teen queen Veronica Marshall, was genuine or yet another deep state plant.
Iconic true crime stories of the ’90s (Lorena Bobbitt, Nicole Brown Simpson, and JonBenét Ramsey) merge with Jessica’s own past, triggering traumatic revelations and the radical potential of feminist vengeance. Drawing on theories of human consciousness, folklore, and a perennial cultural fixation with dead girls, MONARCH questions the shadow sides of self-concept: Who are you if you don’t know yourself?
Praise for Candice Wuehle:
Candice Wuehle has a masterful lens on the veiled extraordinary of our world. — CA Conrad
Wuehle uses poetry as a conduit between bewilderment and forecast, utterance and occult, trauma and pain song, archive and dirt. — Caryl Pagel
- A LitHub Most Anticipated Book of the Year
- A Bustle Most Anticipated Book of the Month
- A CrimeReads Best Book of the Month
- A Lambda Literary Best Book of the Month
- A NPR Best Book of the Year