That a teenage girl in 19th-century England could have written a novel as original as Frankenstein has fascinated generations of readers.
This fictionalized biography in first-person free verse unveils how Mary Shelley’s unusual experiences shaped her imagination and inspired her to give the world the first “mad scientist” in science fiction. From extensive source material, Judge pieces together a timeline from 1812 until the anonymous publication of Frankenstein in 1817. As a pregnant teenager, Mary is banished by her father for her relationship with libertine poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her social circle of prolific Romantic-era writers includes poet Lord Byron, who challenges the group to write ghost stories one rainy evening. (Among the tidbits in the backmatter are thumbnail biographies of these secondary players and a bibliography of related titles.) The author/illustrator pulls no punches in her portrayal of Mary’s dismal life. The book is heavily illustrated in black-and-white wash, with darkly evocative images that echo the grief behind Mary’s writing, including the loss of a baby and sharing Percy Shelley with her stepsister, Claire. A prologue and epilogue from the Creature’s point of view pull modern readers in: “She conceived me…till I was bold enough to climb out of the page / and into your mind.”
Students of literature will appreciate the powerful poetry that brings life to Mary Shelley’s story the way that Shelley herself breathed life into her novel of a scientist who animates a corpse. (introduction, biographical note, author’s note, notes, bibliography) (Historical verse novel. 13-17)