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My Dear Henry: A Jekyll & Hyde Remix

de Kalynn Bayron

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"In this reimagination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a teen boy tries to discover the reason behind his best friend's disappearance and the arrival of a mysterious and magnetic stranger"--
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This book was a little slow, but that’s very reminiscent of the title it’s based off of. This book is a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde except it’s Gabriel, who is a young black man who goes to medical school in London and his dear friend, Henry. Henry is Henry Jekyll, the son of Dr. Jekyll. These two meet at medical school and become involved. They write romantic letters back-and-forth to each other over the summer and considering this is the 1880s it’s very frowned upon. Their love is illicit and considered immoral buy some. It gets both of them thrown out of school, and Harry experimented on by his father. What is unique about this story is the reason for the experimentation. In this version of the story, his father Henry’s father is experimenting on him to make the gay go away. It’s how we get Jekyll and Hyde. And in the book Hyde is not as violent as he’s made out to be and other versions. He is still deadly and there are there is an incident, but mostly the reader roots for him. Overall I really enjoyed this different take. There was a reason to the experimentation that our current society would understand (but hate). One of the things I really like about this book is that why it is a “black trauma book”. It’s the trauma of being gay felt by outsiders, not by Henry and Gabriel are both fine with their love. But they still find each other and find a way to make everything work. Just two black boys in London trying to make a better life for themselves and others. ( )
  LibrarianRyan | Feb 28, 2023 |
If you enjoy riffs on classic novels that ask interesting "what if?" questions, you'll be delighted with Kalynn Bayron's My Dear Henry. The novel is a reworking of the Jekyll/Hyde story. It keeps the Victorian London time and setting, but in this version the central characters are Black. In one way or another, they're all fighting to carve out a safe space for themselves in the world, whether through academic accomplishment, wealth, or acquiescence with the racial hierarchy of the time.

Our Dr. Jekyll is an unofficial teacher at a medical school. The school is happy to use him as an instructor, but unwilling to identify him as faculty because he is Black and because he isn't passive in the face of racial bigotry.

Two students at the school—Jekyll's son Henry and his friend Gabriel Utterer—are trying to get medical educations, though they know there is almost no chance that they'll ever be allowed to work as physicians. They're not allowed to live on campus as white students are. They're also expected to accept frequent insults and acts of bullying by faculty as well as other students.

The two boys quickly fall in love. Gabriel's family lives in the countryside, so he doesn't have immediate worries about how his family will react. Henry is in a much different situation, spending his days under his father's observation. Henry's mother just wants Henry to be happy. Henry's father wants him to conform to current social values (including the "value" of homophobia) to increase Henry's chances of succeeding in a racially polarized world.

What Bayron does with this premise keeps readers engaged throughout the novel. We get the creepiness of Stevenson's original, but find it informed with with explorations of the racial hierarchy in Victorian London. The novel never becomes polemical. Its characters are its heart, but the exploration of larger social issues is essential to understanding who those characters are.

Technically, My Dear Henry is a YA title, but it's a compelling read, even if, like me, you're a nuber of decades past the usual YA age. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via EdelweissPlus; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Feb 23, 2023 |
I feel a great many things when I look at you Henry. Shame is not one of them.

Knowing the book by Robert Louis Stevenson makes most of what happens a forgone conclusion, but I loved how the author made the story resolve about queer black identity, and the way lack of acceptance leads to desparate, painful measures.
Gabriel's father is convinced being nice to important white men will help his son while Gabriel hates every second of it. Dr. Jekyll steals from white men in the way they steal from him and Henry suffers for it. The duality between those two, and the fact that there is no way to win as queer person of colour against a world that favours cishet white men felt very real to me, and I wished it was explored a bit more.
I did like how the romance was written subtly, their love shown through gestures, letters and actions. It's not often that the couple in a book genuinely spend time with each other doing simple things and enjoying each others company, though I also wished the ending where they were happy was a bit longer. They deserved it.
Overall, I liked this book,. It has the perfect gloomy gothic atmosphere to read this autumn.

I read an ARC so this review may not reflect the final published version ( )
  MYvos | Sep 28, 2022 |
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