Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: The Vespertine

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: YA
ISBN-13: 9780547482477

(Received for review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Net Galley)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Saundra Mitchell on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset - visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a hidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. The enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own - still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.


Saundra Mitchell's latest book combines two genres that are not often found together; young adult and historical fiction, with a bit of romance and paranormal thrown in for good measure. Readers will be enthralled by main character, Amelia and her abilities. This a hauntingly beautiful story that readers are sure to stay up long into the night reading. Mitchell has way of writing that draws the reader in and just won't let go.

Amelia has lived in Maine all her life. She doesn't know much about the big city, but she is excited when she is sent to Baltimore to live with her cousin Zora while she searches for a husband. Unfortunately she begins to have feelings for someone her family feels is totally unsuited for her. Nathaniel is an artist with a lot of secrets. Amelia quickly learns that she has a secret of her own. She begins to have visions with the waning light of evening. In the vespers she can see glimpses of the future. When Zora starts telling her friends about Amelia's ability, everyone wants to hear her prophecies until one dark vision comes true, that changes everything.

This is really a coming of age story in the Victorian Era. Amelia van der Broek is a young girl trying to find her place in the world and when she begins to see things she thinks she may have found it. But then the visions turn dark and it causes pain and anguish she isn't so sure anymore. What's more shes expected to marry a proper gentleman when she can't seem to get enough of a young artist that her family won't allow her to marry. I really enjoyed the author's portrayal of a young girl at a cross roads in her life. When the decisions she makes now could change her life forever. Mitchell lets us see Amelia's abilities and how they cloud her judgment and her feelings. Yet she doesn't go into great detail about the ability to see the future, it is sort of a subtle element in the story. I hope that the author continues to develop this part of the story in subsequent books.

I love the fact that more young adult writers are venturing into the historical genre. I think finding out what young were doing and how their lives were in olden days is very interesting and I think it will create a new and significant new audience for YA novels. I am a huge fan of all things history and I believe the author really caught the ambiance and the tone of the Victorian Era and what was expected of young women at that point. Mitchell's use of prose was exceptional and gave the an almost lyrical feel, reminding me of classics like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

The characters were well developed. Main characters Amelia and Nathanial were well written and fleshed out and the supporting cast like Zora and Thomas were also given a lot of time to develop throughout the book. One of the things that I particularly liked about the characters was the banter that took place between Zora and Amelia, they were truly best friends, sharing the good things and the bad in their lives, gossiping and just being young impressionable young girls. They were a lot of fun to read.

I recommend this one to readers of Young Adult fiction and historical fiction alike. The story is engaging and haunting. It will give you goose bumps! I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this author.

The Vespertine is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

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