Courtesy of http://burnbright.com.au
By Rebecca T. Dickinson
“When we step through that door of light again, the garden realm is there to welcome us with its sweet smells and bright sky … I don’t know how much time I shall have with my mother, and a small part of doesn’t want to share that time with my friends.” ~ p. 272
A Great and Terrible Beauty is a YA novel mixed with supernatural elements. Not my conventional read, I found it fast and entertaining. The Victorian-age story, written by Libba Bray, reveals the struggles of Gemma Doyle.
She wants to leave India and go to school at Spence—a London school for girls. Her mother tells her it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and Gemma cannot figure out why her mother is reluctant to return to London where she can receive a young lady’s proper education and her father might recover from his Opium addiction.
After her mother’s suicide, Gemma attends Spence as an outspoken yet mysterious person who matches any girl. She forms a friendship with three girls: Felicity, Pippa and Ann. All want something. They are relatable for twenty-first century girls with separated families, parents who have abandoned them, or face addiction.
“The bottle goes around a few more times till we’re all loose-limbed as new calves. I’m now floating inside my skin. I could go on floating like this for days. Right now, the real world with its heartbreak and disappointments is just a pulse against the protective membrane we’ve drunk ourselves into.” ~ p. 141
I am not crazy about the description of the main realm the girls enter. In that case, the reader can tell Bray definitely wrote the book for teenage girls dreaming of the day their prince will come. Since I’ve written from a male perspective for six years, and read so many books by male authors in relation to my writing; I grow bored with girly aspects of the book. Bray’s descriptions of the fairytale realm are well-written, but it makes one think it is happy bubble, lollypop time.
That said, there are equally scary parts of the book in which darkness and evil takes a physical and demonic shape in both the supernatural and what a person—with the best of intentions—is capable of doing to another.
Perhaps what I appreciate the most in the book is its message of atonement between parent and child. If an adolescent girl is reading the Gemma Doyle trilogy, it is encouraging to know YA authors show the realities of the relationship between parents and children.
What I loved the most was written in Bray’s acknowledgements in the beginning: “And especially Josh for being so patient when Mommy had to finish just one last thing.” As a writer-educator-mother who works with trucks crowded under her desk, I appreciate this sentiment.
Overall, the book is worth a read if you are interested in YA, supernatural or teenage girls’ misadventures.