Strange Star by Emma Carroll | SLJ Review

Gr 5 Up –Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Clare Clairmont, and Dr. John Polidori are all sitting around the fireplace on a stormy night. The goal of the night’s assemblage is to “tell a ghost story that will terrify the assembled company.”

redstarCARROLL, Emma. Strange Star. 240p. Delacorte. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399556050.

Gr 5 Up –Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Clare Clairmont, and Dr. John Polidori are all sitting around the fireplace on a stormy night. The goal of the night’s assemblage is to “tell a ghost story that will terrify the assembled company.” Everyone has had a turn except Mary Shelley, who is uncharacteristically stuck for a thrilling tale. The party is about to turn in for the night when there is a knock on the door. Standing outside is a pale girl named Lizzie, covered in scars like tree branches. She accuses Mary of kidnapping her little sister, and then launches into a story full of intrigue, in which a mysterious scientist named Francesca Stein moved into the mansion on the hill and began conducting strange experiments, culminating in bringing a dead wolf back to life using the power of electricity. Carroll’s version of how Shelley came up with Frankenstein is as inventive and thrilling as the novel itself, but the real power of the story comes from the underlying theme of not judging people by their appearance—much like the original, and still a prevalent message today. The book also includes several strong female characters: Lizzie, blind after getting struck by lightning, overcomes many obstacles in order to get her sister back; Lizzie’s mom, whose independence from her husband separated her from the rest of society; even Francesca Stein is shown in an admirable light as a brilliant female scientist struggling to break into the profession, until her experiments go awry. VERDICT A entertaining, thoughtful rendition of Frankenstein’s  conception. Some readers may not understand the references to the original story, but they’ll enjoy it nonetheless.–Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn Public Library This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

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