Friday, November 1, 2013

The Strange Story of Man Made Boy

Premise: Sixteen-year-old Boy is the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride. Since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile. Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak (This is a shortened version of the premise at

Title: Man Made Boy
Author: Jon Skovron
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Content Appropriate For: Grades 9-12 (lots of language)
Format: Digital ARC provided by Penguin Young Readers via NetGalley

Three adjectives that describe this book: strange, nerdy, disappointing

The premise of this book is genius - creative, intriguing, and just plain cool. Unfortunately, the execution didn't quite live up to my expectations. My theory is that Jon Skovron loved this book/premise so much that he added in every possible detail he could imagine until there were so many that the text became garbled with nonsense. This would have been a great story with more judicious editing.

One element of the text that was actually more interesting than I expected was the computer programming component. Several sections of text were written as an IRC chat and Boy ends up writing a program that profoundly changes his life. This science-fiction aspect of the text felt really modern and was written clearly enough that even non-programmers will be able to keep up.

While the novel was adventurous and creative enough to keep my interest all the way to the end, there were 2 main things that bugged me -

1. The supporting cast of mythical creatures was so huge and diverse that it was almost ridiculous. Boy has encounters with trolls, werewolves, the Invisible Man, Medusa, satyrs, the Sphinx, Kokopelli, a griffin, goblins, chupacabra, harpies, etc, etc, etc. The list is seriously ridiculous. And 90% of these creatures play absolutely no role in the story. They are basically background elements. This story would have been tighter if Skovron had limited his world to a handful of creatures.

2. The other irritating thing was that Boy found the "love of his life" three times in this book. Did I mention that he's only sixteen. And that the entire novel covers maybe 3 months. Sure these romances played a role in Boy's development as a character, but it was just a little bit much. When there is that much "true love" in 350 pages it's hard to take any of it seriously..

Overall, Man Made Boy was an intriguing read. The plot was interesting and peppered with danger and action. Unfortunately it is marred by some strange decisions by the author that made the story more campy and really messed with the overall tone.

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