The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

304p. Delacorte. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525577942.
Gr 9 Up—A retelling of Mary Shelley's classic novel from the point of view of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein's eventual wife. A relatively minor character in Frankenstein, Elizabeth takes center stage here. The story begins as Elizabeth searches for Victor, who has been incommunicado for several months. Elizabeth finds him, but also finds that he has been conducting suspicious and gory experiments in his apartment—experiments which she later discovers resulted in the monster brought to life. Since Elizabeth's security and future depend on pleasing the family and controlling Victor's violent outbursts, she has always covered for his more vicious attacks. Now she must protect him from the results of his own obsession. Italicized inserts within chapters fill in the backstory of Elizabeth's entry into the Frankenstein family—selected to be Victor's companion and friend—while the main plot continues chronologically. White adds emotional depth to a character who was passive in Shelley's original. She highlights, with feminist sensitivity, Elizabeth's total dependence as a woman of her time, playing whatever part is necessary to ensure her future. The novel continues in the gothic tradition of the source material, and the title speaks volumes about the darkness of tone and content. The language is often surprisingly lyrical with the narrative flowing smoothly despite frequent flashbacks. Twists and tweaks, especially toward the end, may take readers of Frankenstein by surprise, but will not spoil either book.
VERDICT Recommended for YA collections traveling on the dark side.

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