A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Set in 1906 in the Adirondack Mountains, and based on the actual murder of a woman named Grace Brown, this book will appeal to fans of both historical fiction and murder mysteries.  Chapters alternate between the past and the present, as narrated by sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey.  In the chapters about the past, we learn about Mattie’s life on her family’s farm and her hope to attend Barnard College in New York City to become a writer.  In the chapters about her present, we learn about Mattie’s work at The Glenmore Hotel on Big Moose Lake and how it brought her into contact with Grace Brown shortly before she was murdered.

I think what I liked best about this story is that it was about so much more than Grace Brown’s murder.  It was also a coming-of-age story about a young woman (Mattie) who was determined to blaze her own path and to fight for her dreams despite the wishes of her father and the lack of women’s rights at the time.  With how seamlessly Jennifer Donnelly wove together the true story of Grace Brown and the fictional story of Mattie Gokey, it’s no wonder this book won the 2003 Carnegie Medal in Literature [under the UK title A Gathering Light].

Happy Teen Read Week!

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