The Mary Shelley Club: Extracurricular Activities Take on a Whole New Level of Horror

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. These are my personal, honest opinions. Thank you.*

3.5/5 Stars

Author: Goldy Moldavsky

Publisher/Imprint: Henry Holt & Company

Edition: Hardcover, 468 Pages

Publication Date: April 13, 2021

A Spine that Shines? Fairly Well


Book Synopsis

New York Times –bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

Book Review

Real monsters aren’t the ones created by man. The real monster is man himself.

-Goldy Moldavsky, The Mary Shelley Club

Initial Thoughts

Hello, everyone! I hope you’ve been having a wonderful weekend! Have you been reading anything good? After virtual church this morning, I attempted to make Chinese roll cakes that didn’t roll very well haha. But tonight, I’m wrapping up my weekend with this review of The Mary Shelley Club. Let’s jump into my initial thoughts about this book:

  • First, I’d like to point out that some elements of this book could be triggering for some readers; it deals with assault and home invasion. Just putting that out there in case.
  • But I thought the premise of this book was fascinating! A group of high school kids are in a club that creates pranks (aka Fear Tests”) based on horror movie tropes! But things start to go wrong when members of the club become targets themselves.
  • The book’s prologue drew me in right away, but it felt a little disconnected from the rest of the story for quite a while. After the prologue, the story jumps immediately to a year later, and it was a little jarring.
  • This is definitely a book for horror fans! There are tons of references to horror movies and books throughout the story.
  • My favorite portion of the story is the last third of the book. It had such an addictive quality that I didn’t want to put it down!
  • I had mixed feelings about the romance in different parts of the story, but I’ll get to that in the next section.
  • Even though this book is a little long for a contemporary, the chapters are short. I love short chapters! They make the pages fly by!
  • The writing style is simple and easy to read.
  • This book is actually a blend of two genres: contemporary plus thriller/horror. I was sometimes bored with the contemporary parts that dealt with high school drama in between the actual pranks. For a while the story wasn’t as scary or creepy as I thought it would be. But once more sinister things start happening, the chapters closer to the end are totally addictive!

‘We can work with fear, like a sculptor works with clay. It’s art.’

-Goldy Moldavsky, The Mary Shelley Club

Characters & Romance

Flatlay of The Mary Shelley Club beside a knife-like wooden letter opener. I purchased the tea towel in the background from (Save on Storiarts products with my code SPINES10.)

I didn’t connect with the characters on an extremely deep level. I didn’t love them, but I didn’t hate them either. Some of the characterizations of side characters were a bit shallow in my opinion. But I still enjoyed reading this story overall.

  • Rachel is the new girl at prep school and finally feels like she belongs when she meets the students in the Mary Shelley Club. After experiencing a home invasion and assault a year earlier, she watches horror movies and does impulsive things for the thrill of it, convincing herself that if she can watch scary movies and do these crazy things, then she can overcome the fears left over from her past experience.
  • Saundra is a rich girl who befriends Rachel. She is the gossip queen, who knows almost every little detail about the students that their school.
  • Lux is your typical popular girl character with a seemingly prefect boyfriend and a perfect life. She quickly becomes Rachel’s nemesis.
  • Freddie is another scholarship student like Rachel. He seems to understand her and connect with her on a level that no one else can.
  • Thayer is a rich dude who also happens to be a horror fan. He often provides comic relief when needed.
  • Bram is a somewhat jerky rich guy who usually acts cold toward Rachel. Though there may be something else under his cold exterior.
  • Felicity is the goth girl character who is super into Stephen King and is willing to do pretty much anything for the Club’s horror pranks.
  • There is a very minor character named Trevor Driggs, who is the target of one of the Club’s pranks, and I felt his characterization was very superficial. At one point, he thinks this about a pretty girl: “She was def on the menu and he was starving” (p. 146). I literally cringed when I read that line. I do understand he is supposed to be portrayed as total jerk who deserves to be pranked, but still.
  • Regarding one of the romantic connections, I didn’t like how the author forces a character to kiss someone without really knowing who she’s kissing because it’s dark. And that seemed to be the beginning of the romantic feelings between those two characters.
  • There are actually two romantic connections for the main character in the story. But I was a little confused about one of the boys because he sometimes acted like a love-interest, but then acted like a total jerk at other times. But I suppose it made a little bit more sense once I finished reading the book.

‘…We are horror aficionados. Appreciators of the technique of terror. Experts in the field of fear.’

-Goldy Moldavsky, The Mary Shelley Club

Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed the concept of this book. Part of the ending is slightly predictable, and many of the revelations are squeezed into the end in an attempt to keep readers in suspense. There are also some loose ends, and several people die. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about all of the deaths, but I did enjoy the twists overall.

Personally, I did not like how often this book used the f-word. I was surprised at how frequently it was used since one of the reasons I like to read YA is the likelihood of finding fewer curse words than I would find in adult books. The f-word is even screamed in caps in one scene. But aside from the cursing, I enjoyed the overall storyline of The Mary Shelley Club. If you’re an avid horror fan, you’d probably really enjoy this book. Happy reading 🙂

*Content Warnings: Home invasion and assault; some horror violence and gore; frequent use of the f-word throughout; teenage drinking at parties; some sexual situations (without nudity).*

Copyright © 2021 by Spines that Shine (Caitlin Shaffer)

A Note on the Bookmark & Tea Towels in My Photographs

image1I couldn’t resist pairing this book with the Mary Shelley leather quote bookmark that I purchased from Storiarts. It was the perfect match. In case you didn’t know, I’m currently a rep for Storiarts. They make beautiful classic literary products such as scarves, gloves, tote bags, bookmarks, tea towels, and more! If you’re interested, save with my discount code SPINES10.

Copyright © 2021 by Spines that Shine (Caitlin Shaffer)

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Up Next on My TBR: The Immortal Game

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