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A Northern Light
ISBN: 9780152053109
Author: Donnelly, Jennifer
Publisher: Harcourt Paperbacks
Published: September 2004
Retail: $9.99    OUR PRICE: $1.99
     You Save 80%
Binding Type: Paperback
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Annotation: Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy," this Printz Honor Book effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and wholly original.
Additional Information
BISAC category: JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / United States / 20th Century
Target Age Group: Age 15-18
Target Grade: Grade 10-12
Grade level: Grade 10-12
Physical Information: 1.08" H x 7.98" L x 5.30" W (0.83 lbs) 396 pages
Lexile Level: 700
Bargain Category: High School, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Grade level(s): 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 67223
Reading Level: 4.5   Interest Level: Upper Grades   Point Value: 13.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q33141
Reading Level: 7.1   Interest Level: Grades 9-12   Point Value: 20.0
 
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.
Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Fall)
Should sixteen-year-old Mattie stay in her insular community and become a wife and mother, or should she strike out for the freedom and intellectual stimulation of the big city? A murder helps her make up her mind. Set in upstate New York in 1906, this ambitious historical novel incorporates the same real-life crime--the murder of a pregnant young woman--that inspired Dreiser's [cf2]An American Tragedy[cf1]. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #3)
Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey's dilemma is a familiar one, in life and in literature. Should she stay put in the insular community where she has always lived and become a wife and mother, or should she strike out for the freedom and intellectual stimulation of the big city? The twist here is that a murder helps Mattie make up her mind. Set in upstate New York in 1906, this ambitious historical novel incorporates a real-life crime, the widely publicized drowning of a pregnant young woman by the father of her unborn child--the same crime that inspired Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Readers expecting a mystery won't find it in Donnelly's story of a girl caught between feminism and obligation; the murder really just serves as a dramatic, albeit rather heavy-handed, wake-up call. The sweeping first-person narrative shifts back and forth between the day the drowned woman's body is discovered and the months leading up to this gruesome event. The flashback chapters all lead off with a different "word of the day," which Mattie pulls from the dictionary in an attempt to keep her mind active while she's waiting on guests at the Adirondack hotel where she works or pleading with her family's obstinate mule to pull the plow. Pointedly drawn characters reflect the limited choices available to women of that era. Mattie can either marry a local farm boy or go to college, but she can't do both; and, as various individuals around her demonstrate, each scenario has its drawbacks. While it may seem obvious to us twenty-first-century types that Mattie, an avid reader and writer, should go the more modern route, Donnelly manages to make her narrator's conflict feel real. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2004 October #1)
Donnelly weaves the fictional story of 16-year-old Mattie into the events of the Gilette murder case (also the inspiration of Dreiser's An American Tragedy). "The author's ability to recast the murder mystery as a cautionary tale for Mattie makes the heroine's pending decision about her future the greatest source of suspense," said PW's Best Books citation. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2003 March # 1)
Donnelly's (The Tea Rose) riveting first novel for young adults, like Dreiser's An American Tragedy, was inspired by the Chester Gillette case. Narrated by 16-year-old Mattie, who works at the Glenmore Hotel on Big Moose Lake, the book begins on Thursday, July 12, 1906, the day a search party discovers the drowned body of Grace Brown, a hotel guest. Earlier that day, Grace had given to Mattie a bundle of letters to burn, her correspondence with Gillette. As the mystery behind Grace's death unfolds, flashback chapters fill in details of Mattie's life on her family's farm. Each begins with her "word of the day," which firmly establishes Mattie's love of language and which ties in with the unfolding events. Readers soon discover that her teacher considers Mattie to be a gifted writer and, at the woman's urging, Mattie applies to Barnard College and receives a full scholarship. But as the oldest daughter of a widowed father, Mattie feels an obligation to stay on the farm, and her budding romance with handsome Royal Loomis adds further complications. Each character contributes to the narrator's growing awareness of the narrow possibilities available to women at the turn of the 20th century. Her friendships with Weaver (the only other student with college aspirations, as well as the only African-American boy in their town) and her teacher (who has a secret of her own) are especially well realized. The author's ability to recast the murder mystery as a cautionary tale for Mattie makes the heroine's pending decision about her future the greatest source of suspense. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2003 May)
Gr 8 Up-Mattie Gokey, 16, a talented writer, promised her dying mother that she would always take care of her father and younger siblings. She is stuck on a farm, living in near poverty, with no way of escaping, even though she has been accepted at Barnard College. She promises to marry handsome Royal Loomis even though he doesn't appear to love her. Now, Mattie has promised Grace Brown, a guest at the Adirondack summer resort where she works, to burn two bundles of letters. Then, before she can comply, Grace's body is found in the lake, and the young man who was with her disappears, also presumably drowned. This is a breathtaking tale, complex and often earthy, wrapped around a true story. In 1906, Grace Brown was killed by Chester Gillette because she was poor and pregnant, and he hoped to make his fortune by marrying a rich, society girl. Grace's story weaves its way through Mattie's, staying in the background but providing impetus. The protagonist tells her tale through flashback and time shifts from past to present. Readers feel her fears for her friend Weaver-the first freeborn child in his family-when he is beaten for being black and his college savings are stolen, and enjoy their love of words as they engage in language duels. Finally, they'll experience her awakening when she realizes that she cannot live her life for others. Donnelly's characters ring true to life, and the meticulously described setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story. An outstanding choice for historical-fiction fans, particularly those who have read Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2004 October)
Gr 8 Up-Set in the Adirondacks in 1906, this atmospheric story based on a true incident involves a teen trapped by family expectations, a fickle fianc‚, and a murder. A fine blending of characters, setting, and suspense. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.