Kristin's Reviews > The Wicked and the Just

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
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May 26, 12

bookshelves: girls, historical-fiction, humor, kids, middle-grade, read-in-2012, reader-s-advisory, ya
Read from May 24 to 26, 2012

Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.

The Wicked and the Just could easily have been written by Karen Cushman, it resembles her work so much. She even blurbed it. I liked it though and don't consider it an outright ripoff. Medieval historical fiction about two girls dealing with widely different changes to their circumstances in 13th Century Great Britain. Cecily and her father are forced off their family estate by the older brother of her father, who has just returned from the Crusades and is the rightful heir to the manor because he is older. Cecily's father receives a post in Wales and may stay in a smaller home in an albeit more scenic location. Cecily is extremely angry about being uprooted and acts extremely imperious and bratty about the whole thing. Her passages are long and include all kinds of fun observations typical of a girl living during any time, let alone Medieval Great Britain. Upon settling in, Cecily meets Gwen, who lived in this house until the English showed up and more or less made servants out of all the native Welsh. The girls don't get along from the start. And Gwen's chapters are short and her mood is black. She hates these interlopers who have turned her into a servant.

It read very well, though I wish the author had provided some kind of glossary in the back. Many of the words were unfamiliar, and I couldn't make sense of some of the terms. It didn't ruin my comprehension, but it might frustrate a kid. Even though the chapters are delineated in alternating first-person, you don't get lost in who's who. I could tell the difference between Gwen and Cecily easily, because their speech patterns were different. And they referred to various characters with different spellings based on their different nationalities. Not something you'd necessarily hear when they spoke, but it adds a nice touch. Gwen's really hard and jaded. She loves her family and maybe even once loved the man who wants to marry her. But, in the wake of the English invasion, Gwen wants no part of the happy life she looked forward to before they showed up. Cecily meanwhile acts quite cruelly herself, and both girls come to learn what is wicked and what is just by the end. A great classroom book for middle-graders, who would have a ton of fun debating what constitutes justice and what constitutes revenge.

This book does not tie up neatly given the circumstances, but by the end of this story, some hard truths are learned by both girls. They may not end up friends, but given what happens to both of them, the understanding they reach and even mutual respect is satisfying.
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