Winner of the Los Angeles Times
Winner of the Carnegie Medal
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book
Synopses & Reviews
Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can't write down in stories. The fresh pain of her mother's death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.
Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman's letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
"Davis adds to an audiobook oeuvre distinguished by her skill at portraying young heroines with great emotional depth. Here she steps into the character of 16-year-old Mattie Gokey, the determined, likable protagonist of Donnelly's first YA novel, inspired by a 1906 murder in New York state. A gifted student, Mattie has an ear for words and a desire to become a writer. But college and a writing career seem out of the question, as Mattie has promised to fulfill her late mother's dying wish: that Mattie never leave her father and younger siblings. The picture brightens when Mattie's family comes to support her dreams and she takes work at a hotel for the summer. However, when a young woman staying at the hotel drowns mysteriously, after secretly entrusting Mattie with a packet of her letters, the summer and Mattie's future take an intriguing turn. With her soft, slightly girlish voice, Davis makes Mattie thoroughly believable. Via Davis's interpretation, listeners will be captivated by Mattie's humor and wit as well as by the conflicted feelings she experiences on the cusp of womanhood. Davis's roster of distinct supporting characters helps anchor the story in its time and place, and the tale's true-crime roots add both suspense and gravity to the proceedings. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Donnelly has written a gripping coming-of-age-story." USA Today
"A breathtaking tale." School Library Journal
Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing, Printz Honor-winning debut--the story of a young woman's coming-of-age and the murder that rocked turn-of-the-century America.
Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
Includes a reader's guide and an interview with the author.
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.
Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
About the Author
JENNIFER DONNELLY is the author of a novel for adult readers, The Tea Rose, and a picture book, Humble Pie. For A Northern Light, her first teen novel, she drew on stories she heard from her grandmother while growing up in upstate New York. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions Q> Why is Pa so against Mattie working at the Glenmore Hotel? Do you think he is a good father? Why or why not? Q> Referring to Mattie's promise to her mother, Weaver says, "God took her life and she took yours." Why does he look at the situation that way? What might have been her mother's motives? Do you think Mattie is obliged to keep that promise? What would you advise Mattie when she wonders if it would be all right to alter the promise? Q> Miss Parrish says Mattie's writing is bad. Miss Wilcox says it is a gift. Why are their opinions and subsequent advice about her writing so different? Q> Why does Royal race his horses when Mattie tells him that nothing is more exciting than books? Why does Mattie agree to marry him? Q> Mattie says at the Glenmore she learned "when to tell the truth and when not to." Under what circumstances might it be better not to tell the truth? Q> Why would Grace Brown want the letters destroyed? Shouldn't Mattie tell someone about the letters as soon as Grace's body is fished from the lake? Why doesn't she? Q> Mattie wonders what would happen if characters in books could change their fates. Are there characters in Mattie's story whose fates you'd like to change? Which ones? In what way? Why? How about characters in other favorite stories? Q> Do you think it's possible for Mattie to pursue her love of books without sacrificing the love of another person? Q> Why does Weaver react so violently to the man at the train station when he knows that a similar situation led to his father's death? How else might Weaver have handled the situation? Q> What does Miss Wilcox mean when she says that voice is not just the sound that comes from your throat but the feeling that comes from your words? Q> Weaver wishes there were happy endings in real life. Are there? Q> Why does Mattie finally decide to leave all she knows for a new life in New York?
Copyright © 2004 by Harcourt, Inc.