Book Review: Hideous Love

Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein
By: Stephanie Hemphill
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction

This novel seems to be one of those you either love or hate. I fall into the love category, but I can totally see why this read is not everyone's cup of tea. 

For starters, it does not read like a typical YA novel. The content and language are vastly different from mainstream YA. In my opinion, this makes the novel have a more literary feel. I could totally see this novel being used in high school English classes. It isn't the sort of thing most people pick up to read for entertainment. History nerds (like me) and those who are interested in Mary Shelley's life might pick this one up for fun, but the general masses may shy away.

In addition, the author's choice to write in verse may also be difficult for some readers to enjoy. I loved it because it felt like I was reading journal entries or getting a front row seat to Mary's stream of consciousness. Verse novels are limited in many ways that can be frustrating for a reader. For example, there isn't really space or time to flesh out setting. In Hideous Love, Mary is constantly moving. Her life is not stationery, therefore, the setting is in constant motion. We never truly get to settle into one place or event as the reader. Also, aside from Mary, I didn't feel like I truly knew any of the other characters. That was a non-issue for me because I wanted to read this to learn more about Mary.

One of the things I loved about this book was that I learned a great deal about what life was like for Mary Shelley. She had a life full of travel, excitement, tragedy, and scandal. I always just assumed that she and Percy Shelley had such a normal courtship and marriage, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It was all quite scandalous for the time period, but I would argue it would turn heads even today. Percy and Mary fall in love while he is still married to another woman and they run away together. While I have to admire Mary for going after what she wanted in a time period when women were second class citizens, I did have trouble understanding what she found so fascinating about Percy. He seemed to be a womanizer who couldn't truly offer Mary a strong relationship. Both Percy and Lord Byron seemed like giant creeps to me.

I also really enjoyed the women's history elements that run throughout this one. I often forget that Mary Shelley is the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first feminist writers. Her parents taught her to think and voice her opinions when that was frowned upon coming from the "fairer sex". Mary does not allow society to force her into a corner, but rather she fights against the gender caste system with her words. It saddened me that when Frankenstein was first published that Mary's name did not grace its cover. She had to publish it anonymously due to the way society viewed her based on her relationship with Shelley. It irked me to no end that he was still able to enjoy a publishing career, but she was seen as the evil one. The double standard made my stomach churn.

All in all, I enjoyed the time I spent with Mary's story. I am even inspired to reread Frankenstein as it has been ages since I read it last. I think it's amazing that Mary Shelley crafted such an iconic novel during her teen years.

One Last Gripe: I wanted Mary to wake up and see that the man she loved was a selfish jerk.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved learning more about Mary's life. 

First Sentence: I want to be beauty, but I am not.

Favorite Character: Mary

Least Favorite Character: Claire

An all-consuming love affair.

A family torn apart by scandal.

A young author on the brink of greatness.

Hideous Love is the fascinating story of Gothic novelist Mary Shelley, who as a teen girl fled her restrictive home only to find herself in the shadow of a brilliant but moody boyfriend, famed poet Percy Shelley. It is the story of the mastermind behind one of the most iconic figures in all of literature: a monster constructed out of dead bodies and brought to life by the tragic Dr. Frankenstein.

Mary wrote Frankenstein at the age of nineteen, but inspiration for the monster came from her life-the atmospheric European settings she visited, the dramas swirling around her, and the stimulating philosophical discussions with the greatest minds of the period, like her close friend, Lord Byron.

This luminous verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill reveals how Mary Shelley became one of the most celebrated authors in history.


  1. I'm extremely curious about this novel and I'm really looking forward to reading it, thank you for your great review!

    1. I hope you enjoy it. It's not a novel that will appeal to all readers, but I found it to be well worth my time and I learned a lot.


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