Jolie's Reviews > A Northern Light

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
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's review
Oct 19, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, historical-fiction

I'm a real sucker for this kind of book. One-room schoolhouse, small-town families caught in a time of change, young girl in love with books and words, and lovely, atmospheric writing. A Northern Light is set in the Adirondack Mountains (since I'm not a native of the North Woods, I don't feel pretentious calling them that) in 1906. Mattie Gokey is our word-obsessed heroine, trying desperately to care for her younger siblings since the death of her mother while still studying to pass her Regents exams (which, in a side-note, I remember taking as a student in New York State. I had no idea they'd been around so long!) and figure out a way to attend Barnard College.

The story moves forward while alternating between Mattie's present--working at the Glenmore camp where real-life tragic figure Grace Brown has just been pulled from the lake--and her recent past--highlighting the events leading to her summer job, and delving into the characters and their relationships that will inform the current events.

I truly enjoyed my time reading this book, perfectly willing to overlook any tendency toward preachiness. And, since several of my reviews lately have been for books appropriate for middle-grade readers, let me say that I would give this one to a more mature reader--one that is ready to read about childbirth, periods, courtship, dirty old men, and (indirectly) murder. Nothing is terribly graphic, but it is certainly part of the story.

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