Published 195 years ago this month, Frankenstein quickly became a classic in the horror genre, spawning countless adaptations in film, television, and books. Whether you first encountered this book in high school English or came to it later as a great example of a gothic horror novel or even if you’ve never read it, you can’t avoid seeing references to the story everywhere. It has inspired books, movies (such as Young Frankenstein), and television episodes (where shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Once Upon A Time have played with the idea of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). While the story itself is approaching its 200th birthday, the ethical issues it raises and the horror of the situations Mary Shelley created remain powerful.
But what if Frankenstein left you looking for more? Thankfully, there are plenty of directions to head in once you finish the original novel.
Experience the Story in a Whole New Way Through Technology
Because Frankenstein entered into the public domain many years ago, authors and artists can republish and rework the novel in new and exciting ways. One cool example of this is the Frankenstein app by Inkle. Previously an app of the week on YALSA blog, this iPhone and iPad app has adapted the book into an interactive story that allows readers to direct the action of the plot by making choices along the way. The app is impressively illustrated with anatomical drawings, maps and engravings from the 1500s to the 1800s. For those who want to compare this to the classic story, the app also includes the full text of Mary Shelley’s original novel.
Another app that aims to give readers a whole new perspective on the story is the Biblion: Frankenstein app from the New York Public Library. The second in a series of apps from NYPL, it includes essays and primary documents relating to the writing of the book, including Mary Shelley’s handwritten draft as well as the final 1831 revision.
Delve Into Frankenstein’s Childhood
There are also a lot of options for those who want to move beyond the time period covered by the original novel. This Dark Endeavor, a 2011 YALSA Readers’ Choice nominee, takes a look at Victor Frankenstein’s childhood and provides a backstory that gives readers a sense of why Frankenstein might have developed his interest in resurrecting a human. Written by Kenneth Oppel, author of Airborn, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Award honoree, it is an exciting prequel to Mary Shelley’s novel. Oppel has since written a second book in this Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series, Such Wicked Intent, which picks up where the first book ended and provides more insight into the young Frankenstein.
Check in With the Next Generation
A new book released earlier this month takes a different look at the Frankenstein family by focusing on Victor’s twin daughters. In Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn, Victor Frankenstein had two young daughters that he abandoned out of fear that his monster would kill them to punish him. When they inherit the Frankenstein castle on a remote island as teenagers, the twins learn the truth of a father they never knew during their childhood. When they arrive on the island to claim their inheritance, they learn the truth of their father’s life and how it continues to influence their lives well after his death. It is a creepy book meant for those who enjoy books that combine horror elements with a historical setting.
Read an Update
If you would prefer an updated version of the story, there are plenty of these as well. Broken by A.E. Rought is another new book released this month. It reconsiders the classic Frankenstein story, this time in a modern-day high school setting. A romance at its heart, this book has lots of subtle and obvious references for Frankenstein fans and provides an interesting counterpart to the original novel though it doesn’t offer the depth of the original novel.
While not a direct retelling of the Frankenstein story, Beta by Rachel Cohn considers many of the same ethical issues of the creation of life. It tells the story of a futuristic world where clones are created to serve the wealthiest echelon of the human population. Elysia, the main character, is in many ways similar to Frankenstein’s monster: created from another person and brought to life in a world that she doesn’t fully understand and must learn to navigate.
For those who have already fallen in love with Frankenstein, these books provide points of comparison and can be a fun way to see how different authors have interpreted the characters Mary Shelley created. Have you read any other books based on Frankenstein? Let me know in the comments!
— Carli Spina, currently reading Prodigy by Marie Lu