Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Northern Light

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Fiddleheads

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder. Set in 1906 against a backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this astonishing novel weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and wholly original.

I was excited to read more of Jennifer Donnelly's work after reading and absolutely loving Revolution, so I went immediately to the store and got A Northern Light. I did not want to read it and keep comparing it to Revolution so I read a couple books between Revolution and A Northern Light just so there would be some distance between the two. It was interesting to see how Donnelly's writing has expanded since A Northern Light, but it has also kept a lot of the same flavor.

This was a great book. If I had read it before Revolution I probably would not have been as ecstatic about Donnelly as a writer simply because it wasn't as un-put-downable as Revolution. However, that is my only complaint. The story is fantastic. And she creates atmosphere so well that you really get to know and understand the characters. Mattie becomes a living and breathing girl and you so badly want her to succeed.

I loved how Donnelly tied in the power of words and finding your voice. It is something I am truly convinced of. Words are underestimated sometimes, but words are so powerful. With each word of the day, Mattie shows us just how amazing words can be. I found some new words that I wrote down so that I could remember them and use them in my vocabulary. That, in itself, is a great aspect of this book. Where it is a YA novel, I think it is great that it teaches new words to youth all while teaching a great theme.

One of my favorite moments is when Miss Wilcox/Baxter tells Mattie that voice is not just the sound that comes from your throat but the feeling that comes from your words. What a great perspective and definition of voice in literature. Another favorite moment is when Mattie talks about Emily Dickinson and envies her for fighting by not fighting and being a recluse.

It is these insights and moments that made the experience of reading this novel enriching and delightful. Not only does it have powerful perspective but it also has a touch of romance, mystery, and action to it. I am still a bonafide fan of Jennifer Donnelly's. Reading her is truly an experience.

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