Review: Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge

Mary's Monster by Lita Judge

Published by Roaring Brook Press on January 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Graphic Novel
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

3 Stars

A young adult biography of Frankenstein's profound young author, Mary Shelley, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its publication, told through free verse and 300+ full-bleed illustrations.

Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.

Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.

Judge’s graphic fictional account of the young and mysterious Mary Shelley is a dark and twisty tale that most reader’s won’t believe is true. It begins when Mary is a young, impressionable and eager to leave her father’s house because of her new abusive stepmother. Mary meets Shelley and well, history is made.

I really enjoyed the art. The deeply haunting and swirling illustrations really added an additional sense of darkness and dread to the book. The monster, introduced in the first part of the book, is very present through the story and it’s easy to see how Mary and her monster were one and the same. The art propelled me through the boo, deepening the vulnerability of Mary’s dire situation and her numerous heartbreaks.

The story is also compelling. We see Mary, still very young but independent, go through ¬†everything from first love to first major heart break, to betrayal and again. The fact that these things actually happened (the major plot points anyway) is both fascinating and infuriating. Mary’s own independence and love of Shelley brought her so much sadness, I really felt for this young girl who would become one of the most famous writers of her time.

The writing was okay. It was a little too simple for my taste, easy to read though. Told in verse, it did have an intimate voice and drew me into Mary’s world. But the format seemed restricted. I wanted to know more about Mary and the people around her, but that wasn’t possible given the way the book is laid out. This is especially true about Shelley and so their romance seemed flimsy to me in the book. ¬†I also would have loved to see more about her family, her sister when she was away, her sister that was with her, all of the fine textures of her story drawn out. Instead it was all briefly touched upon and I didn’t feel satisfied.

Overall, the book is successful due to the illustrations and story, painful and heartbreaking, real and inspiring. I think a lot of people would enjoy this book, as many don’t know the real story of Mary Shelley.