Book Title: My Dear Henry
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Narrators: Clifford Samuel
Release Date: March 7, 2023
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, LGBTQ+
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Audio Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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…
My Dear Henry is the newest book in a series of queer classic retellings. As someone who enjoyed the original version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I was really excited to see what My Dear Henry would do with the story and how it would evolve. Overall, I really liked this (especially the ending!!), and I’m super excited to have read it.
Because I received an audio ARC of this one, I want to first talk about the narrator and the audiobook itself. Clifford Samuel does an excellent job of voicing Gabriel and capturing his inner thoughts, while still keeping the other characters distinct enough for us to follow along. His narration style also fits well with the original story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, too, which I thought was a nice touch to a retelling. If you’re an audiobook reader, I definitely recommend listening to this one!
When reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I always kind of thought that Jekyll might be gay, and when I saw this would be a retelling with a romance between Mr. Utterson (as a teen named Gabriel) and Jekyll (as a teen named Henry born to a Dr. Jekyll), I was so curious to see how that dynamic would unfold. The romance between Gabriel and Henry was an integral part of the book, so I was a little disappointed when the founding of their relationship was mostly glossed over until it was an already established thing. Because of this, I found it a little difficult to be invested in their lives at first.
Thankfully, though, Bayron does an excellent job of showcasing Gabriel’s longing for Henry and how much he means to him. The longer the story continues, the more I found myself completely invested in how their relationship and the turmoil surrounding it would conclude. I feel Gabriel’s hurt as Henry shuts him out, and I’m just as determined to figure out why as much as Gabriel is. The way his emotions are encapsulated in the page feels like a hurricane brewing. In the beginning, I’m unaware of how immense it all is, until suddenly it hits me, and I’m completely consumed.
Because of all of this, I would consider My Dear Henry a bit of a slow burn. Not just in regard to the romance, but in general. It’s a story that starts out slow and builds and builds until it explodes in the end. I cannot tell you how entirely unprepared I was for that ending. It hit me totally unaware, and I got a little teary eyed, not gonna lie. This book covers some difficult and still prevalent topics today such as homophobia, as well as inner homophobia, racism, sexual assault, and more.
Watching the conclusion to a certain character’s emotional growth and journey really hit me hard. Not necessarily because the specifics are personal to me, but because it’s personal to many I know and love. They’ve lived this story, and tons of people are still living it today. The way these topics were tackled was done really well and helped to round out and develop this book.
Overall, I really did love My Dear Henry. It stayed true to the original tale while expanding on certain ideas that absolutely need to be talked about more. Even so, it was entirely its own story, even aside from the Jekyll and Hyde narrative, and if you’re like me and enjoy a good slow burn book, then I highly recommend this one.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an Audio ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Check out my last blog post: Izzy at the End of the World (ARC Review)