Saturday, July 7, 2012
Young Frankenstein Finds Adventure
Have you ever wondered what school was like for Harry before he became a wizard? Or what Hamlet was like as a kid? Do you think George protected other kids when he was young, just like he protected Lennie? Was Bella always so awkward, or was she only awkward in the presence of shimmery bloodsuckers? How did Sonny and Michael grow up so different in the same home and the same family? Sometimes a story doesn't give you the whole picture of the character and what they were like before the story takes place, but if you are lucky, someone got the bright idea to fill in the blanks like Kenneth Oppel did in This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Because before there was a monster, there was a quirky, snarky, punk of a teenager ready to solve the biggest mysteries!
Victor is always just a step behind his twin brother Konrad, even in realizing he has a crush on the distant cousin who was brought to live with their family after her father abandoned her. Except, of course, when it comes to getting in trouble. Victor is a professional at mischief and mayhem, much to his family's dismay. When the kids stumble across a hidden library full of alchemy books, Victor is the first to start snooping around... until their father catches them and forbids them to ever enter the Dark Library again. But when Konrad falls gravely ill and no medicine seems to be making a dent, Victor is willing to try anything to save his brother.
Convinced alchemy is the only way, Victor finds a book that might contain the secret of the Elixir of Life. He tracks down the only alchemist known in the area only to find a man confined to a wheelchair who was forbidden to practice alchemy by Victor's own father. When Victor pleads for his brother's sake, the alchemist agrees to help them at least translate the code for the recipe. But as the code gets cracked and the ingredients are revealed, the alchemist is just as anxious to try the recipe himself. Being confined to the wheelchair, the kids must get the rare ingredients themselves, even if it risks their lives. But with Konrad's life hanging in the balance, no risk is too much for Victor.
Here is the thing about Victor Frankenstein... he is kind of a wise guy. He is an arrogant teen boy who isn't afraid to plod head on into situations despite the possible consequences... actually, without much regard for the possible consequences at all. But he loves his brother. And he is fallible. I liked this fun prequel to the Frankenstein we all read about in high school. I think it was a great way to explain the man he eventually became. It really made me think about Frankenstein differently, which is the reason this would be a fun series to give a young adult who is reading the classic Shelley story. It might also encourage them to write a little fan fiction of their own about their favorite characters from books or movies they have enjoyed! Add to that the beauty in the lesson of different perspectives, and you have quite a fun lesson on your hands!
This book is appropriate for any middle through young adult reader who likes to read about adventure, but it would mostly likely have the most impact on someone who has read Shelley's original. Therefore, an older student would probably get the most, but I wouldn't hold a kid back from this story if they hadn't read the original. In all honesty, other than the name, there isn't much keeping you from understanding this story without the original. It's a fun adventure filled with silly kids, emotions, and a mystery to be solved. You will most likely enjoy it just as much as I have, especially as Victor gets himself in and out of one tough spot to another!