Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters
By Suzanne Weyn
Published on January 1, 2013
Published by Scholastic
Published by Scholastic
The more I think about this book, the less I liked it, which is an unfortunate way to find yourself looking back at a book that you had much higher hopes for. I like retellings of classic stories, I like horror stories and monsters and creepy twins and stories told via things like letters and diary entries. This book has all of those things, but also lots of things I didn't like, like a love story that was never fully fleshed out and a completely bungled "quick wrap it up!" ending.A new generation is creating a monster....
When Doctor Victor Frankenstein died, he left behind a legacy of horror...as well as two unacknowledged, beautiful twin daughters. Now these girls are seventeen, and they've come to Frankenstein's castle to claim it as their inheritance.
Giselle and Ingrid are twins, but they couldn't be more different. Giselle is a glamorous social climber who plans on turning Frankenstein's castle into a center of high society. Ingrid, meanwhile, is quiet and studious, drawn to the mysterious notebooks her father left behind...and the experiments he went mad trying to perfect.
As Giselle prepares for lavish parties and Ingrid finds herself falling for the sullen, wounded naval officer next door, a sinister force begins to take hold in the castle. Nobody's safe as Frankenstein's legacy leads to a twisted, macabre journey of romance and horror.
I love epistolary-style stories, but the diary entries for Giselle and Ingrid didn't always work for me. They left too much out -- we only see bits and pieces of Ingrid's budding relationship with the reclusive man next door, for example. We're led to believe that she has grown to love him immensely, but they share little time together on the page and when they do, he hardly speaks at all. They might have this great love but I didn't buy it because I didn't see it -- and what little interactions they do have were of the cliched "you can never love me I'm too damaged and horrible" variety. I also wish we'd seen more of Ingrid's transformation from curious young scientist to, well, Junior Dr. Frankenstein. It's a pretty big step from "fascinated by medical things" to "cuttin' up the bodies for Science", and I felt like the middle stages of her descent into madness could have been better emphasized.
A lot of terrible things happen around the girls, and no one seems all that concerned. It helps that Ingrid is focused on her scientific work and Giselle is, well, having her own issues, but still. Most people would expect a little bit more of a reaction, but other than some cursory investigations and mild worry, no one seems to care. I was also not a huge fan of the ending, which felt very rushed. My other misgivings aside, I probably would have had much better feelings towards this book had I not gotten to the closing chapters and found myself wondering "wait, what just happened?" I'm not a fan of foreshadowing so obvious that even oblivious readers can guess what's happening, but this really felt like it came out of left field.
Were it not for the murders, gruesome scientific experimentation, and repeated violence against women, I would say that this reads more like a middle grade book. Though flowery in that Victorian-era sort of way, the writing is overall pretty simplistic, and the book is a very quick read. (I finished it over the course of a couple of hours of flight and layover time.) I think the premise was really interesting, and I liked that it was a woman who was carrying on Dr. Frankenstein's legacy, but unfortunately the execution was somewhat lacking, in my opinion.