A Northern Light
You can read the summary of this novel at Goodreads by clicking here.
I absolutely, positively loved and adored this book! It takes place in the early twentieth century where a young woman, Mattie Gokey, is torn between helping her struggling family after her mother's death and her brother's abandonment, and following her own dreams of going to college and becoming a writer.
The characters in this novel were fleshed out and very realistic. The plot was great and Donnelly's writing style is excellent. Despite the fact that the plot wasn't "action packed," Donnelly's writing style, plot, and vivid descriptions made this book a page turner for me.
The novel is geared towards young adults, but the author doesn't talk down to the reader at all. She introduces the reader to new words throughout the story. Mattie has a tradition of picking a new word from her mother's old dictionary every day, learning it and trying to use it in a sentence. You might think this would come off as forced, but not at all. It flows very well with the rest of the book. Donnelly also doesn't shy away from adult situations. I don't mean there are graphic sex scenes, instead Donnelly tackles a scene of childbirth and nursing that are not toned down and I think that was a positive part of the novel.
The main theme in the novel is girl-power and for a character from 1906 that is a big deal. Should Mattie get married, settle at sixteen, and help her family through their rough times? Or should Mattie go to college and become a writer and possibly never get married? These different aspects are explored throughout the novel and by the end, we have an answer that was not entirely predictable. There is also talk throughout the novel of "banned books" and books that Mattie's teacher lets her borrow that others deem inappropriate for young ladies. Today these books are classics and a major part of literature.
Overall, a great novel and I'm looking forward to reading more by Jennifer Donnelly.