Monday, January 2, 2012

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Young Adult (12, maybe 14 and up): 4 stars
Mom Appeal: 5 stars

Carnegie Medal Winner, United Kingdom
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner
Borders 2004 Original Voices Award Winner
Named a Best Book of 2003 by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, The Irish Times, The Times (London), The Financial Times and The Albany Times-Union.

I really enjoyed this book. Someone I love dearly gave this book to me for Christmas last year, and I wanted to read it, but I just never seemed to get around to it. (Surprisingly, my reading choices are mostly not my own, I'm reading what my children are reading or what my book club is reading or what C.L.A.U. is reading.) But, over Christmas break we have been doing a lot of laying around and reading, and I picked this up. What a treat!

Set in the Adirondacks in 1906, sixteen year old Mattie Gorkey is the oldest sister of four children. Her older brother left the farm after her mother's tragic death from cancer, and her father struggles to keep himself going, and keep the farm afloat. Mattie struggles with her desire to keep her promise to her dying mother to take care of the family (now her father and two younger sisters) with her desire to escape her weary/unappreciated life and go to college and follow her dreams.  A handsome boy starts "sparking" with her, and influences her plans for the future as well. The story jumps back and forth in time and uses Mattie's word of the day for each of the chapter headings. Each of the words ends up perfectly defining some point of the chapter. A real-life murder mystery also weaves its way into the fabric of the storyline.
Mattie learns about life and about promises . . . and that sometimes what seems like breaking a promise could actually be keeping a promise.

Quick description: Interesting, compelling, well-written, and thought-provoking. 

Value Topics: honesty, morality, personal character, integrity, girl power, relationships

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