Wednesday, January 26, 2011

YA BOOK REVIEW: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

I recently read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, considering it’s more of a time-slip than a historical. Donnelly is an amazing writer. So I was very pleased to learn I didn’t have to wait for her next book. She had already written another YA historical, which meant I could count it toward the YA historical fiction challenge.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is based on the true story of the murder of Grace Brown, a young woman who was drowned on a lake by a resort hotel in upstate New York in the summer of 1906.

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Mattie Gokey, a seventeen-year-old farm girl. Her mother is dead. Her father is left alone to bring up four girls, and Mattie is the eldest. The responsibilities weigh her down and make her feel trapped. What lifts her up is a love of words as well as a talent for writing that has earned her a full tuition scholarship to Barnard. She dreams of a way of life different than the hardscrabble one she knows, but the scholarship isn’t enough to pay for her escape from the farm. She needs train fare, room and board—which are all out of reach. And when her handsome neighbor inexplicably comes courting, she grasps at the possibility of love, imagining she might be able to exchange one dream for another. Until the town is faced with the drowning death of the young tourist, Grace Brown. As Mattie discovers the truth about Grace, she also learns deeper truths about herself.

Once again, I was swept away by the strong characterizations and the beauty of Jennifer Donnelly’s writing. I highly recommend this moving story!

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