Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge is a book that defies category. This is too bad, because it will get categorized anyway, which means many people will miss it. I can’t express how sad this is, because Mary’s Monster is an otherworldly great book! If you were to ask me what type of book, well…that’s where things get confusing. It was announced in Publishers Weekly as a free verse and fully illustrated YA. Unfortunately, knowing this may turn you away, if that isn’t the kind of thing that sounds interesting to you, which would be a terrible misfortune. Personally, I don’t know what it is: fictionalized biography, graphic novel, dark children’s book? I only came across it because of my own personal obsession with Mary Shelley. But I do know I love it!
On the surface it is a biography of Mary Shelly told from her point of view in prose and poetry with illustrations on every page. But that says nothing! There is a magic about this book that draws you in from the first pages. Frankenstein’s monster reads you into the story, then Mary takes over her own tale. I’m well acquainted with Mary Shelley’s biographical particulars, and they are here with one-hundred percent accuracy, but it is the way Mary tells her tale that is so compelling. She pulls no punches and makes no attempt to paint herself as an angel. This is Mary Shelley, warts and all!
The illustrations are dark and gothic, like her famous novel. The text is sparse as you’d expect for a young persons’ book, but in no way immature; this is compelling for adults without a doubt. The rhythm of text and illustrations is fast and immersive; you are deep within this book before you come up to take a breath. One moment you’ll find your brow furrowed in concern at some of her actions, and the next moment your heart will be aching for this bruised and battered young woman.
When she finally reveals that her famous monster is indeed based on herself, you will be certain without a doubt of the truth of this statement. You will also marvel how this very personal creation of an impossibly young woman could have lasted over two-hundred years and spawned the entire genre of modern science fiction. Bringing Mary to life in this way is a masterwork by Lita Judge. I don’t care what type of book you normally read, you’ll love Mary’s Monster!