November 9, 2012
The title character in Peter Adam Salomon’s Henry Franks is a 16-year old boy who survived a terrible accident that killed his mother, wiped out his memory and left his body massively scarred and stitched, as if he’d been puzzled back together. Old photographs and vivid dreams are the only clues to his forgotten past. Henry’s dad is no help, a broken, grieving man who works late and locks himself away in his room at home.
An outsider at school, a cipher to himself, Henry is befriended by Justine, schoolmate and next-door neighbor, as outgoing as Henry is introverted, an attraction of opposites. The story builds slowly and methodically until Justine’s curiosity and her eagerness to help Henry recover his past kicks everything into high gear. As intriguing clues to Henry’s identity pile up, news comes of a serial killer stalking the seaside Georgia community, and a hurricane is zeroing in for landfall.
Frankenstein themes aren’t merely referenced here, they’re essential to story. Death and rebirth, perilous science, bad parenting, nature unchained, protagonist as outsider… Author Salomon knows his Mary Shelley and makes very original and innovative use of her concepts.
Beautifully written, Henry Franks is a terrific first novel, one of those YA books that A’s will enjoy unreservedly. Henry and Justine are fully fleshed out characters, and their relationship is sweet and genuinely touching. The St. Simons Island locale is vividly real, its sleepy town, the unrelenting heat and swaying Spanish moss. Reading Salomon’s book, I felt like I’d actually been somewhere and met someone.
Peter Adam Salomon's website.