Unspeakable

cover artCaroline Pignat brings to life a historical tragedy and fictional love in Unspeakable. Similar to the story in the film Titanic, but undeniably original, this novel captures the fear, pain, and survivor’s guilt from the shipwreck of The Empress of Ireland.

“No, the waters didn’t take me that night, but I was drowning, still, in survivor’s guilt” (pg 176)

The friendships and romances are memorable. Learning about Jim’s perspective gradually as Ellie reads his journal is heartbreaking as we see the lost opportunities that so many people suffered.

The class divide on the ships makes you think about society and priorities. In shipwrecks, and in life, it is more dangerous to be in the lower class. Having a protagonist who grew up wealthy but is disowned and needs to work as a stewardess (in a time that was like serfdom) allows readers a view of the larger picture. She sees the contrast all the more starkly, making the transition.

“We write our lives by the choices we make. Like it or not, that becomes our story”

Ellie is a strong character who keeps her integrity through hardships. She experiences more hardships than many could bare but keeps her wits about her, stays true to herself, and fights for what is important to her. She is ostracized for her teen pregnancy, hounded by reporters for being one of the few survivors of disaster, and judged for following her heart. She makes mistakes, but the way she deals with them make her a good role model for readers.

A fantastic read for fans of adventure, survival stories and romance.

Dance of the Banished

Danced of the Banished is a fictional story based on true circumstances. It’s a sad story of violence, discrimination and exploitation in 1914, but it’s also about a long distance romance.

The most enjoyable and enlightening part for me is when Zeynep encounters the missionaries and is baffled by how the “civilized” people trying to force their culture on others is not as wise and functional as the “savages” .

This is something that could enrich a history of social studies class. However, I can’t see any average Canadian teens reading it for pleasure. The pace is slow, the dialogue is choppy and the narrators don’t have youthful “voices” that I feel will appeal to teens.

I think I’d market this to an older audience- not because of mature content but because of the pace, tone, and diction.

Tomorrow’s Kingdom

If you haven’t read the Gypsy King read that first.

Maureen Fergus hooked me with the first two installments of the trilogy so I was excited to dive into the final book. Like the other books in the series, Tomorrow’s Kingdom is an exciting fantasy adventure.

The idea of a lost royal child having a unique perspective towards peasants, servants, and outcast tribes that will unite the kingdom is a bit cliche, but I must admit I enjoy it. There’s modern sensibilities towards prejudice and class divide injected into a setting of castles, corsets, horses, and adventure.

The romance is steamy but not explicit. The war has action but is not gruesome. These factors make the book appropriate for teens although I think many adults would enjoy it as well.

The villains are despicable men who are greedy, misogynistic and violent but they are also believable. They have reasons to be the disgusting people they are, formed by both nature and nurture they are well rounded characters.

This is a series I would recommend to readers looking for historical adventure, strong female characters or medieval fantasy. The fantasy elements do not play a large role, so it would appeal to people primarily interested in adventure who don’t mind a touch of legend or a sprinkle of magic in a story.

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing

Ck. Kelly Martin’s novel The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing is an emotional drama.

The book explores the balancing act of being in high school, where girls are ostracized for being too uptight and chaste, or are taunted and humiliated for being too promiscuous. This is amplified with the prevalence of social media because word or even video of every mistake can spread quickly. The conflicting pressures from boys, friends, and family can be overwhelming as demonstrated in the novel.

cover artSerena has a complicated family life that has an impact on the rest of her relationships. Her favourite brother’s drug problems and disappearance leave her with mentally absent parents. Her other brother’s fame overshadows her, as she struggles to deal with the loss.

The author does a fantastic job of making the everyday struggles resonate. From insecurity about her weight, to a mix of excitement and shame about her sexuality, to the disillusionment she feels about her role-model turning out to be flawed- Serena feels like a real person.

Teens looking or realistic drama will enjoy this.