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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

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The Pearl Thief

In this prequel to Code Name Verity, a teenage Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart has just returned from boarding school headed to her family’s former ancestral home Strathfearn House that is being sold to become another boarding school to pay her grandfather’s debts, since the estate hadn’t been able to pay for itself in years. Upon her arrival two days earlier than planned, Julie decides to attempt to surprise her family and friends, but doesn’t run into any of them. Figuring she’ll run into them soon, she takes a walk along the river, knowing this opportunity will be forever gone soon, and is somehow attacked. When she comes to two days later, she’s in the hospital and believed to be a traveller, treated like she’s no better than an unwanted animal. She can’t remember the events around being attacked, and meanwhile, there are other unusual circumstances. A man has gone missing and is believed to be dead and other suspicious events have happened. Julie, together with new allies of the Scottish travellers Euan McEwen and his sister Ellen, tries to discover what happened and also clear the travellers of any suspected wrongdoing before someone is gravely injured.

This was so very different compared to CNV. It is basically more of a historical mystery taking place well before the war. Julie is also much younger at fifteen, and is determinedly trying to be older than she is. She sometimes acts as if she has the authority when her family is unavailable and she pretends to be older to attract older men too. Julie can’t wait to grow up, and though she tries, she still carries the naiveté and sense of entitlement that has yet to be challenged until now. Julie forms a number of new relationships throughout the novel that teach her rather different lessons, things that ultimately are helping her form her identity. When her hair is shaved off, she has a chance to explore what being a boy is like because everyone believes she is a boy rather than a young noble lady. This identity swap, however unintended, shapes her into exploring things she never was able to before, whether through her sexuality or her class standing. This is possibly one of the key changes for becoming Verity.

One of themes of the book is the prejudice against travellers. See this Wikipedia entry on Scottish travellers and who they were and here for more educational info. We might associate them more as gypsies, but for the most part, they were still regarded as undesirables even in this day and age. Today we could easily compare this with some attitudes towards the homeless, immigrants, or refugees (though actually a news station mentioned gypsies in the US fairly recently). However, during this novel, because the travellers are nearby, they are automatically thought to be suspects, subjected to any number of indignities, and even withheld from other privileges that are perfectly legitimate, like Julie showing them her family’s collection at the library. Julie’s family seems to be one of the very few who accept and defend the travellers, but they cannot stop the violence and prejudices that happen when someone powerful isn’t around (beatings, accusations, rape).

Other interesting things about this book are the history of Scottish pearls, Julie’s relationship with her grandfather and his family’s downfall during the wars (which happened quite a bit during this age), and bits and pieces of real Scotland (though Mary Queen of Scots pearls are actually invented in this story despite her having loved pearls and having possibly the most famous pearls in the world now passed down and even worn by Queen Elizabeth II).

While this isn’t an earth-shattering novel like CNV, it does show a lesser noticed side of history, namely the Scottish traveller abuse and prejudice. I found it to be much more subtle and to carry more gentle character development than her other works. I’m not quite sure what teen I would give this to, except maybe an older teen more interested in literary classics, historical fiction, mystery and identity crisis because it is fascinating from these standpoints or to make a full character comparison between Julie and Verity. Other fans blown away by CNV might find this underwhelming instead, though I enjoyed the read.

 

 

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Remember, Remember by Anna Elliott

Today I’m reviewing Remember, Remember sent by the publisher over at Tynga’s Reviews. This is not a YA, but rather historical fiction mystery set in Regency, late 19th century. Click the picture or here to read.51DFXZFrurL.jpg

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in For Review

 

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

51R8i55EtAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBone Gap

In this stand-alone coming-of-age mystery, the town of Bone Gap, Illinois has mostly small town charm, but a few residents think it is a little unusual. Perhaps it isn’t just the town but the people too? Finn O’Sullivan has never been “quite right,” as the rumor goes. After his father died and his mother left town for a new life and husband, the only family he had left was his older brother, Sean, whose college plans changed to a career as an EMT. Neither Sean nor Finn is prepared when they find a girl, dirty and much abused, hiding in their barn. They offer her a home, however temporary, and it’s like she belongs to them, and they to her, or perhaps they’ve found each other at just the right time.

Roza and Finn are close friends, while Roza and Sean slip slowly into love and Sean is preparing to ask her to marry him. Suddenly, Roza disappears and leaves everyone stunned and mourning, even the townsfolk of Bone Gap. No one believes poor Finn when he swears she was kidnapped by a dangerous man, not even his brother; in fact, the townsfolk might even believe Finn O’Sullivan did something to Roza. While Finn tries to process her disappearance and his brother’s reluctance to go after her, he discovers another surprise in the barn, a mare that seems magical. Through his and the mare’s wanderings, Finn becomes closer to Priscilla, “Petey” Willis, the beekeeper’s unusual spitfire daughter. Petey brings out the best in Finn and as their relationship blooms, Finn finds new courage but learns of secrets that change his self-perception. This new awareness enables him to find out what happened to Roza in a wild attempt to save what is left of his family.

*Winner of the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and a National Book Award finalist.

My summary fails to capture the ethereal magic and captivating use of language that characterizes this novel. I loved how the reader really can’t trust the characters and also cannot predict the plot. Author Ruby presents various viewpoints in the novel to juxtapose with the main narrator, Finn, thereby revealing that our perception of Finn is vastly different from the opinion others have of him. This use of characterization is most excellently well done, as each character credibly feels like a real person with a unique voice, strong feelings, and perspective. Then, add in the mysterious setting, the disappeared but strongly present Roza, and underlying themes of love, truth, and acceptance, and this novel won’t stop surprising you. While this book may appeal to more literary or older teens, the overall quality and dearth of details speak to the hard-won praise and mark a story that will stay with any age of reader, teen or adult.

Notes: Themes of violence and sexual abuse are noted only in subtext of story.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

23346358.jpgThe Accident Season – a mind-twisting mystery, with magical realism, elements of a ghost story, and echoes of Celtic mythology

Cara and her unconventional family have always experienced what they call “the accident season” in which every October they all have unexplainable accidents, some as worse as death and others very minor. When she was younger, it was something she accepted, but now as she’s gotten older, she’s beginning to notice that it’s odd and that’s not the only weird thing that’s happening. There’s a girl, Elsie, who runs a secrets booth at school, but who’s been missing, and Cara notices her image in every photograph Cara is in. When Cara tries to find Elsie, along with best friend Bea, sister Alice, and ex-stepbrother Sam, no one ever seems to have heard of her. Cara’s search for Elsie, and the reasons behind the accident season, changes her perspective and allows her to discover haunting secrets about her family’s past.

First published in Great Britain, this novel takes place in Ireland and, as goes with the territory, blends ancient mysticism into modern reality. The cast of characters are likeable yet unfathomable and the mystery will have you guessing, akin in tone to other reads such as We Were Liars, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Bone Gap, and many of Maggie Stiefvater’s titles, though not as star quality. Though some of the plot twists are predictable, the ethereal setting and the coming of age experienced by Cara, Sam, Bea, and Alice is genuine and captivating. Themes of romance, friendship, and dealing with abuse and trauma round out the story.

Note: Drugs, alcohol, sexual circumstances, and strong language. Older teen readers may find this more to their taste, as it has a more classic literary (or abstract) feel.

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Book 3) by Michelle Hodkin 

15768409 The Retribution of Mara Dyer – A bonechilling, grisly, and satisfyingly engrossing read. 

After being set up by her ex-boyfriend Jude and Dr. Kells, Mara and her friends Jamie and Stella are official patients of Horizons inpatient treatment center and trapped in a secret underground bunker where they’re being held captive, drugged, and experimented on against their will. As for Noah, Mara doesn’t know what happened to him, but Dr. Kells says he’s died. Unable to believe this and practically catatonic without the grief, Mara is surprised when she wakes up from her drug-induced state to discover Jude has freed her and sent her on a mission to find Noah. After killing Dr. Kells in a battle for her life and her sanity, Mara, along with Jamie and Stella must escape the island, though she is still drugged, sick, and covered in blood. After making it back to Miami, they use Jamie’s power of influence to fool their families, only Mara’s brother Daniel isn’t there, and he has the genetics book, the one that explains what they are and perhaps might lead them to Noah. They follow Daniel to New York where he seems to be visiting colleges. As all secrets are revealed about Mara’s ancestry and the mysterious Lukumi, Mara comes to accept the truths of friendship, love, and sacrifice, especially when Noah is caught between life and death; however, she comes to realize the hardest part is accepting yourself and having the courage to make the toughest choice.

In this third and final volume of the Mara Dyer trilogy, Michelle Hodkin brings us full circle to discover the secret of the kids with powers, how Mara and Noah came to be, just why they’re drawn to each other, and how captivatingly she weaves the final threads of Mara’s story together. I am just amazed at her quality of language and imagery. The romance was delightful and fans won’t be disappointed with this resolution. Without Noah for much of the book though, Jamie steps in. He is hilarious, and brings us some relief from the intensity of the action. I loved this series. It’s dark but lovely. Like a blooming nightshade flower. May not want to read this at night, alone, and in a storm though.

Note: Violence, language, sexual situations.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Horror, YA Mystery/Thriller

 

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