Review: Deja Ross Speaks to Freaks

by Lisa Naffziger

publisher: TopShelf Comix / IDW on June 26, 2024
ISBN 978-1-60309-540-2  Diamond Code: APR241163

Publisher’s Summary:

Who’s brave enough to make friends with a monster? Deja discovers the hidden world of America’s mythical creatures in this lovable and exciting graphic novel!

Deja Ross is a seventh-grade cryptozoologist. That means she loves monsters… and hopes to someday prove they’re real!

On a long family road trip, she pulls out her new video camera to search for legendary creatures at every stop. One night, Deja sneaks out of the RV and meets the Texas chupacabra face-to-face! In her excitement to meet an actual cryptid, she charms the beast out of eating her. It turns out that mythological animals are not only real… they can talk. And maybe it’s time for their stories to be heard!

Deja and her furry new friend hatch a plan to interview the rest of the cryptid community. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones on the trail… and some other monster-hunters don’t have intentions as pure as Deja’s. Has she led her beloved beasts into a trap?

Critically acclaimed graphic novelist Lisa Naffziger (Minus) presents a page-turning adventure that celebrates friendship, curiosity, and the most adorable critters you’ve never seen. — a 208-page, full-color softcover graphic novel with 3″ French flaps (6″ x 9″).


I absolutely loved everything about this middle grade OGN where a young and confident biracial girl sets out to be a citizen scientist during her family’s vacation. Deja Ross plans to research as many cryptids as possible. The wrong kind of people notice her work and it endangers the creatures. Deja and her brother Amari have to be creative to undo the harm of proving that cryptids are real.

Deja, Amari, and their parents are on a cross-country RV trip. Deja is taking what started as a school project about cryptids and continues her research out in the wilds of various states like a field scientist. Her goal is bring out the truth and combat misinformation which is a clever way to teach kids about the threat of conspiracy theories. Naffziger may disguise her message with bright colors and monsters, but it’s clear this cartoonist wants the younger generations to feel emboldened to seek out the truth for themselves and question historical records and hearsay.

Deja meets the Texas Chubacabra—a sweetheart of a creature named Greg—who offers to help by introducing her to other cryptids. By the time she meets her 2nd “monster,” she learns they can be insecure just like her. It isn’t always easy for Deja our her schoolmates or around her jock older brother, Amari who has been sidelined with a broken arm. When Deja is alone with creatures and like-minded people, she’s easily confident and able to share her thoughts. That friendliness is cause for concern by her mother, as it should be. Deja’s ease with talking to complete strangers doesn’t go well for her. (Fortunately, this is not a Lifetime movie where things get real world grim).

The colors are bold with flat areas next to patches of details with shading. The background elements like the RV or buildings are drawn with thin, crisply inked lines and flatter palettes. The living subjects are given stronger inks and vibrant attention with colors. The coloring is anything but grimdark; they’re vivid and deep even in nighttime scenes, appealing to readers who appreciate the boldness. Naffziger is also great at showing body language making it clear what the characters’ emotions are whether the panels are full of conversation or silent.


This is a wonderful book about being adventurous, learning to be cautious while courageous, and teaching one to be creative when fixing their own mistakes. *NOTE: There’s a preview of more pages at!

Rating: 5 stars

new 5 stars ratingAuthor Bio: Lisa Naffziger is a comic artist and children’s book illustrator from the Midwest. In March of 2014, she graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Sequential Art. In 2018, she successfully Kickstarted and self-published a memoir travel comic (I Don’t Wanna Puke in Tijuana). Most recently, her YA crime thriller graphic novel, Minus, was published with Iron Circus Comics.

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