Horror Reprise

Of Monsters and Madness, by Jessica Verday, (EgmontUSA), 288 pages, release date 9 September, 2014

I knew before I started reading Jessica Verday’s novel Of Monsters and Madness that my response was probably going to be strong—but I wasn’t sure whether that response would be positive or negative. Negative might be too strong a word, but I’m definitely disappointed.

Of Monsters and Madness is a young adult novel; the publisher recommends it for ages twelve and above. I imagine readers at the low end of the suggested age range might enjoy it, but it lacks the richness that the best young adult novels have—the richness that makes them satisfying for adult readers as well.

Of Monsters and Madness is a sort of mash-up of classic horror stories. There’s a generous helping of Poe—Poe’s Annabelle Lee is the main character; Poe himself appears as well. The novel also owes much of its plotting to Stevenson’s Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. There’s also a taste of the Sherlock Holmes Story “The Creeping Man.” The problem is that these elements don’t add up to anything new. Instead they feel like a faded reprise of stronger works.

If you’ve got a young reader who’s already worked her way through most of the classics Of Monsters and Madness draws on, then this book might be a good choice. However, Poe, Stevenson, and Conan Doyle are certainly accessible for readers in the middle school years. If she’s not familiar with those classics, they would make for much richer and more satisfying reading.