Book Review: A Northern Light

Posted April 8, 2011 by Kara in book review, Kara / 3 Comments

Book Review: A Northern LightA Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 1st 2004
Genres: young adult
Pages: 396
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

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.

I’m confused as to why I’m giving a book five stars that I really didn’t enjoy. Reading is subjective. So is reviewing. I don’t particularly care for depressing books. I have depression and anxiety. I try to read books that allow me to escape or feel uplifted. But not always. Sometimes I know a book will be sad, and I’ll pick it up anyways because the book jacket interests me. And that’s what happened with this one.

It’s an amazing story. I couldn’t put it down. Basically you have two stories that are intertwined and weaved together and by the end of the book, they have become one. There’s a lot of flipping back and forth between the two time frames but it doesn’t get confusing at all. If you are looking for a mystery though, despite what the jacket says, this isn’t it. It’s the story of a girl and her sisters, and father and their survival after mom passes away from cancer. They have a farm to run and the oldest brother ran away from home. As you would imagine, life is quite difficult. Mattie(the protagonist) has dreams of becoming a writer but everywhere she looks people are discouraging her. Except her teacher and best friend Weaver. Skipping over a lot here, but eventually she gets a job at the Glenmore Hotel where a woman washes ashore drowned. And that would be the other part of the story. As always, my reviews are spoiler-free so I can’t go into any more detail without ruining it.

I felt the middle of the book dragged a little, but that’s because I was still let down a little as to what I thought this book was going to be. Were I to go back and reread it, I would probably feel differently. Because despite the fact that it totally wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, it was an amazing novel. I loved the voice and the descriptions were beautiful. I really, really liked Mattie. And I loved Weaver. The characters were well-developed and felt like people. At times they were really frustrating and I wanted to wring their necks.

I think it’s very important to state that the theme of the novel is extremely important here. I believe it is choosing between your dreams and your responsibilities and/or obligations. And which you find more important. It’s a very hard choice to make. And if you decided to read it, this will come to mind a lot as you are thinking about the choices that Mattie makes.

If you are looking for a book that will entertain you, but also make you think, look no further. Just don’t expect to come out of it feeling happy.



3 responses to “Book Review: A Northern Light

  1. I haven’t read this book, but I loved Revolution. Have you read that yet? Like this one, it’s an incredible novel that isn’t always enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
    New follower!

  2. “…I’ll pick it up anyways because the book jacket interests me”
    LOL Just like me ^^

    Nice review!
    I know it’s difficult to write a review without having to spoil it. I seldom read books which left me feeling unhappy but if it’s a powerful one and with good messages I might give it a try 🙂

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Haha, isn’t in sad? I am such a cover whore. While this isn’t a favorite book of mine, there is no denying that it was fabulous and comes highly recommended by me for the right person. Thanks for your comment!

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