My Dear Henry: A Jekyll & Hyde Remix
by Kalynn Bayon
Releasing on March 7th, 2023
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult Fiction—Historical, Horror, Retellings, Romance
In this gothic YA remix of Dr. Jekyll & 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—in misty Victorian London.
London, 1885. Gabriel Utterson, a 17-year-old law clerk, has returned to London for the first time since his life— and that of his dearest friend, Henry Jekyll—was derailed by a scandal that led to his and Henry’s expuslion from the London Medical School. Whispers about the true nature of Gabriel and Henry’s relationship have followed the boys for two years, and now Gabriel has a chance to start again.
But Gabriel doesn’t want to move on, not without Henry. His friend has become distant and cold since the disastrous events of the prior spring, and now his letters have stopped altogether. Desperate to discover what’s become of him, Gabriel takes to watching the Jekyll house.
In doing so, Gabriel meets Hyde, a a strangely familiar young man with white hair and a magnetic charisma. He claims to be friends with Henry, and Gabriel can’t help but begin to grow jealous at their apparent closeness, especially as Henry continues to act like Gabriel means nothing to him.
But the secret behind Henry’s apathy is only the first part of a deeper mystery that has begun to coalesce. Monsters of all kinds prowl within the London fog—and not all of them are out for blood…
Disclaimer: I was provided a digital galley via Edelweiss+ for the purpose of reviewing. This does not affect my opinion.
My Dear Henry was ethereal, unexpected and strange. The neutral expectations I had set for this book were met, but I was left with several thoughts—some mixed, mostly positive—upon finishing reading.
Kalynn Bayron has a compelling writing style. Her words call one’s attention to the page and make it difficult to pull away. This book being set in a different time period meant that a certain understanding of the dialogue and mannerisms would be necessary to portray correctly, and Bayron did just that. There was prose, there was both delicate and hard narration, and there was the openness for imagination and imagery all crafted into this one book.
However, with my love for her writing style also came my hesitance toward the development of the plot. This story was medium-paced and gave one the chance to take in each event as it unfolded. There are two points of time in the story–the beginning is the past, and the middle and end are the present. While reading, I found the chapters near the end of the “past” came across as though details were skipped over. I took the care to read over some of them twice or thrice to see if I had missed or accidentally skimmed over them. Instead, I found that there were holes in the plot that made it seem rushed and unexplained. Upon reaching the “present” part, I found that, again, the ending chapters came across as entirely rushed and as though the details were not fully explored or realized. This was a bit of a letdown because the rest of the book was absolutely fantastic, save for these few parts.
Moving forward, as a stickler for character development, I paid certain attention to what one would get with Gabriel—neither Henry nor Hyde—as the main character and narrator of the story. I found Gabriel to be a wonderful main character. There were parts of his dialogue or inner thoughts that I had highlighted over because they stuck out, and I enjoyed seeing his character shift through emotions, decisions and longing. The way he interacted with those around him and the way his decisions shaped who he became by the end of the story was expertly done and stood out while reading.
I did feel as though the relationship between Gabriel and Henry did not quite fit at first. What started out as an introduction to their meeting quickly shifted into them sharing deep thoughts and feelings for each other. This relates back to the earlier mention of underdeveloped parts of the story, as the beginning of their relationship easily fit into the list of those parts, unfortunately. However, after that initial bit of the story, it felt as though the pieces of their relationship developed much smoother and with a bit more reality catered in.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed My Dear Henry. There was a lot about this story that stuck out to me and will stick with me for a long while after reading. For that, I give this book a starred rating. This was my first book from Kalynn Bayron, and it will not be my last. I happily enthuse everyone to pick up this title, as it will be one that resonates.
Kalynn Bayron is the New York Times and Indie bestselling author of the YA fantasy novels Cinderella Is Dead and This Poison Heart. Her latest works include the YA fantasy This Wicked Fate and the middle grade paranormal adventure The Vanquishers. She is a CILIP Carnegie Medal Nominee, a three-time CYBILS Award nominee, a LOCUS Award finalist, and the recipient of the 2022 Randall Kenan Award for Black LGBTQ fiction. She is a classically trained vocalist and musical theater enthusiast. When she’s not writing you can find her watching scary movies and spending time with her family.