December 06, 2013

CYBILS REVIEW: Man Made Boy, by Jon Skovron

This book is a 2013 Cybils YA Speculative Fiction nominee.

So, I've been thinking I'd like to put up a small monument to Jon Skovron.

Nothing ostentatious, mind, just a small bust in the park, or a wall-sized painting on the side of a public library, perhaps. Maybe he could get a stamp.

This isn't how I react to many authors, no, but the thing is, I've never read a book of this guy's that I didn't like. I mean, NEVER. That's the kind of batting average that requires a monument. So, while I'm thinking about which park I'm going to take over, and how I'm going to manipulate some artist into doing this thing, I'll tell you a bit about his latest book.

It all starts with zeroes. And ones.

Concerning Character: Tech meets Classic Gothic Horror in this fast-paced and tightly written playful, poignant, coming of age novel. This is a full-on crossover for lovers of the original Frankenstein and lovers of bildungsroman and those who are always up for a good road trip. This is THE STUFF, people.

Boy is your typical guy - big, tall, awkward, kinda shy. Stays online, practically all the time. Gets nagged by his parents about being online, all the time. Gets bullied by Shaun the Satyr, about being a techno-robot-geek, all the time. Secretly crushes on Liel the trowe, yeah, all the time. With the exception of his freakish size, brilliant tech savvy, Frankenstenian parentage, and the fact that he lives underneath Time Square with a bunch of monsters and he's never been outside of The Show, ever, he's just like anyone else. Or, most anyone else. He has dreams -- big dreams -- and his biggest dream to date is to be nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING like his emotionally switched-off father, and his can't-express-herself mother. He wants to be more - more human, more flexible, more free. And, when the chance comes to escape to the Outside - New York City - Boy goes.

It's apparent to more world-experienced readers early on that freedom isn't always all easy. As a matter of fact, it's fairly hard. Boy - having never been outside - has no ID, no social security card, nada.He's also Boy - the son of Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride. He looks a bit... different. Humanity isn't exactly ready to embrace "different" with open arms on its best day, and on its worst? Yeah. Even fairly jaded NYC is struggling to deal. Brilliant techie that he is, without ID, Boy is stuck on the bottom rung of the ladder, working in food service with other undocumented visitors to New York, while crashing on an online friend's couch. It's a meager, gray life. To make matters worse, Boy's last big brilliant tech innovation turns out to be a total bust. But, on the up side, suddenly all of his wishes are coming true. Or, one of them, at least... but, even getting what you thought you wanted can turn on you -- quickly.

On the run from NYC and his past -- and all his mistakes -- Boy encounters a bigger, weirder world than he could ever have imagined. There are people like him -- and stranger than he is, by all accounts. There are lights and cameras, mega malls and Apple stores. There are unexpected kindnesses and unexpected reversals of fortune. It's The Real World -- and, it's not an easy place to be, especially if you're on the run. Sometimes, a Boy's gotta stop running. Facing up to your failures is the only way to stand tall - like a Man.

I LOVE the title of this - MAN MADE BOY is pretty evocative. Sure, all of us are "man made" to a certain extent, but not quite in this DIY fashion! Non tech-heads may not notice, but the lettering on the cover is made up of circuit boards - a brilliant design touch, and the slight bluish cast it gives the model's fingers makes him look suitably inhuman/undead, without overdoing. The little skitter of lightning in the heart that makes the 'o' in Boy is a nice nod to Boy's father, Frankenstein's monster, who came aliiiiiiiiiive through means of electricity - the high tech of the time when his story was written. The bolts in the wrist are also a bit of a clue about the characters in the novel! This is a cute and clever cover - well done, cover people!

A funny, romantic - for a given value of romance - disturbed, realistic view of growing up and taking charge of ourselves and our mistakes, you'll finish this and want to shove MAN MADE BOY into the hands of everyone you meet. Enjoy!

WARNING:: DIY humanity is not for the weak of heart. Look both ways before crossing the street. Not everyone is cool enough to have both bolts and USB access in their wrists. GE does not bring all good things to life. Conversely, lightning doesn't actually bring most things to life, either. Your mileage may vary. Running from failure is less of an option, when failure chases you. Reading books while operating heavy machinery may be hazardous to your health.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, for the Cybils Awards. You can find MAN MADE BOY by Jon Skovron online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

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