Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2013, 384 pages
YA Science Fiction
Boy lives and works in a New York City theater with his parents, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride and a cast of creatures and creations alike. Hungry for a more human experience, Boy heads out on his own, gets an apartment, a job, and is soon joined by his crush. But after unleashing a computer virus he’s been obsessing over for ages, everything starts to fall apart at the seams.
Man Made Boy features a set of well-developed and, for the most part, interesting characters. Skovron uses modern and not-so-modern myths to help populate his Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel, largely by drawing from and retelling pieces of some classics, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The complexity of the characters led me to believe that various problematic behaviors different characters exhibited (particularly Boy, who was often misogynistic among other things) would eventually be eradicated (or at least dulled) from the characters as they learned and grew. This was not the case. I was disappointed to see, instead, Boy speaking as a sort of mouth piece for the men in the world who subscribe to “meninism” and who believe in the “friendzone.” Several times one character or another (again, mainly Boy, as the narrator of Man Made Boy) said something which so reflected such an anti-women philosophy that I almost put the book down or, at the very least, rolled my eyes. I felt that it was important to continue, however, with the hope that these characters would change (as characters do) and the general belief that a political or social disagreement does not warrant my censorship in my own reading. Besides, what if there was some other really great thing about the novel I would miss out on if I gave up?
That all said, I’m not convinced the rest of the book was worth it for me. I became frustrated with the pacing and the proportions of action (getting a bit into theory here, referring to rising/falling action and the like) felt awkward. I never felt like I was reading just one solid plot line, but rather a mix of small plot lines with one vague one that sort of stood out sometimes. I should point out that this is also how I’ve felt about Frankenstein the few times I’ve read it. So make of that what you will. As a Sci-Fi plot, Skovron did well with the details overall, and I enjoyed the off-the-wall theater setting for the earlier bits. I did find I asked myself frequently, “Where did Boy get his consciousness, his self?” because Boy was, like his father, assembled from pieces of other (dead) individuals. Assuming the same was done for his brain, (and remember we’re working in a universe where this is possible) he’d start off with the consciousness (and personality, language, memories, etc.) of someone else. So is this really “Boy” at all? Skovron dodges this issue entirely, though deals with other oddities and enigmas in better detail.
There was nothing in Skovron’s writing style that stood out to me, other than a few awkward phrase here or there and my general disbelief that a teenage “boy” would say many of the things Boy did. Skovron divided the book into parts, heading each with a philosophical and foreboding quote from one source or another. I didn’t feel these quotes added anything special, though they did help guide the theme for readers who may struggle with identifying themes (hint: if you need a book for a book report/paper, this might be a good option). In the “grand finale” of the book, I was generally confused about what was going on. Here, the writing seemed to go from “okay, but nothing special” to “ehhh, not so great.”
I was unimpressed with this one and reading it with a feminist lens really sealed the didn’t-like-it feeling for me.