Here is a set of young adult novels that I read over the summer and fall of this year – these books all came from the library.
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotsen (1981, 400 pages, paperback)
– A young Russian emigrant, part of the aristrocracy in pre-Revolution Russia, works as a maid in an English country manor to earn money. The protagonist, Anna, is an impossibly good and unbelievably humble person. She is saved from being entirely tepid by some spunkiness, but still she is one example of how this book inhabits cliche-land. The heir of the home is obviously going to be Anna’s love-interest, but typically, the already-engaged man holds to honor in the face of all reason. Ibbotsen’s writing strengthens the novel in spots by being unexpectedly funny or apt, so I may try out a different novel as I’ve heard this is one of her weaker works in fact.
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2003, 400 pages paperback)
– The Goose Girl fable is an excellent choice for source material. I always think of that fairy tale as the one where the horse’s head talks to the main character which was a detail kept in the Grimm’s tales that I read as a child. Hale contextualizes the fable very well. The princess-turned-goose girl Ani, finds herself in various desperate situations but finds good friends and an inner resourcefulness that carries her through her trials. I loved the climactic scene where she harnesses her powers to face down the villain – I could easily picture it. This was a good book to read when I had the flu in October. I look forward to reading more in this series, the Books of Bayern.
Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli (2007, 320 pages hardcover)
– This is a dark, melancholy tale about the Irish princess Melkorka, kidnapped by slavers along with her plucky younger sister. It is based on a story found in Icelandic sagas. The story is treated as a historical, rather than as a fantastical, story. Melkorka doesn’t say a word during her captivity aboard the slave ships – at first an almost accidental decision – but a decision that ends up being the one way of protecting herself. I definitely was drawn in and found myself pondering the story for long afterward.
Uglies and Pretties by Scott Westerfield
– I already reviewed Specials earlier in this blog, and I won’t say much here except that Tally Youngblood was one of my favorite characters that I encountered this year in my reading.