Review – Man Made Boy
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  • Posted:
  • September 19, 2013

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Man Made Boy is an upcoming book by Jon Skovron. Ostensibly, it is a retelling of the story of Frankenstein as well as several other monster stories. It’s an odd book to talk about so I will try to streamline my thoughts about it, which are very mixed.

Boy was created instead of born. He is the son of Doctor Frankenstein’s Monster and Frankenstein’s Bride. He has spent much of his life in a theatre on Broadway working for Ruthven, a man who runs the ongoing show. Ruthven has gathered many monsters and given them a home in exchange that they perform, or add to the show, in some way. Boy tends to help with anything technical.  Boy is a computer genius, a hacker extraordinaire with body mods to help him create viral content easier. His current project, a sentient virus, is a beautiful and complex thing.

One day Boy decides that he has had enough and leaves the theatre for new ventures. But he cannot outrun his past, no matter how hard he tries.

There were things I really enjoyed about this book and things that really irritated me. The story reads very easily and the tone reminds me of a cross between the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer and the Monster High books by Lisi Harrison. Throw in more swearing, more adult content and more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (in this case two women) and you have a great idea of what you will discover in this book.

However, the execution is poor. The quality of writing has high peaks and low lows. And the pacing of the book needed help. The longer it took to get to Boy’s actual journey the less I was interested. For one thing the marketed synopsis released by Penguin (which you can read all over the internet) made this seem like it was only a road-trip book. It’s not, and it actually takes more than half the book to get to the said road trip, so by then it almost doesn’t matter. I know why this synopsis was written this way though. Much of what happens in the first chunk of the book are huge spoilers for those who want to enjoy the ride. The latter half of the book, which I thought would be the entirety of the book, was less interesting. And long. And frustrating. It gets there, but it feels like a completely different story than the book I requested and I feel a tad misled.

Much of the story follows Boy’s interactions with humans and his growing confidence about himself. Boy’s journey is, at times, sweet and tragic. Other times it is silly and hopeful. It is everything that one wants in a coming of age book. You have first love and betrayal, hope, fear, confusion and discovering where, and who, is home… but the telling is a bit muddled and I wanted it to be better than it was. So, overall, it was a disappointing read.

I do recommend it if you like the original story of Frankenstein and want to read an updated contemporary telling of it. I think this book has strength in that area.

Overall, it’s a solid 3 out of 5 stars for me. I just wanted it to be better.

– BP

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* On an extreme side note – This book left a very bad taste in my mouth regarding one character, Laurellan. Laurellan is part of the mythical folk living in the theatre. At one point Skovron chooses to write this line about him:

“Laurellan didn’t like the negative connotations of the old-fashioned name for his kind; faerie. He felt it was too limiting. Instead he wanted people to call him a fag because he said that fags could be movie stars or politicians or anything else they wanted.”

Laurellan is later revealed to be gay when Boy has to visit a gay bar to acquire something from him – a glamour powder for a Troll lady friend with highly addictive properties. This whole plot line, and the addition of the pejorative phrase, is offensive. Exchanging one known homophobic term for another is also offensive however pointed it is in the context of the story. I almost didn’t finish the book as a result.

In speaking with a friend who had read the book I was encouraged to read through the whole thing. The author was trying to make a point of people and their prejudices. In the case of this character, and this one thread of story, it seemed unnecessary to point out that Laurellan was gay. Making him be the one who had the glamour drug is also a cheap shot. It feels like Skovron is pointedly using homophobic clichés that all gay men are drug addled flamboyants who are only good for having drugs and being drug-addled degenerates. And this seems even more barbed considering that Laurellan is only introduced for this one plot point and that is it. He disappears from the text after that.

So, why choose a gay faerie who identifies as a “fag” to give Boy the drug unless that is your message – That you believe that this cliché line of thinking to be true? Frankly, it doesn’t land Skovron in a category of authors I would immediately read again. It makes me question the author.

I did not appreciate this.

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