M Is for Monster

Talia Dutton. Surely, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4197-5197-4

Dutton’s pensive Frankenstein-inspired debut graphic novel nimbly explores grief, sisterhood, and identity. Driven by guilt following her younger sister Maura’s death, caused by the Asian-cued siblings’ latest science experiment, Doctor Frances Ai defies natural law to revive her. Frances and her cued-white spouse, Gin, stitch Maura’s body back together. Using lightning as a conduit, they work to resurrect Maura; instead, they inadvertently birth M, a blank soul with no memories of her own. Fearing what Frances will do if she realizes her failure, M turns to Maura’s disembodied spirit, which is bound to mirrors and visible only to M. As M learns about the siblings’ turbulent relationship to maintain the ruse, she undergoes her own evolution toward personhood. Thick inky lines, dynamic paneling, and monochromatic hues enlivened with teal splashes fluidly develop an eerie, mid-20th-century setting. Though Frances’s guilt is palpable, Maura’s wry wit (“Science go oops. Energy go BOOM. Maura go bye-bye”) and M’s endearing missteps skillfully balance weighty circumstances with humor, conveying a moving story about prioritizing one’s well-being, personal expression, and self-discovery. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (June) [/em]
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