A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2003. 389 pages.
3. A succinct evaluative annotation. Plot: [Conflict] Mattie Gokey was born before her time; she lives in 1906 and wants to go to school to learn to write so she can become a writer, but her father wants her to stay at home, taking care of her family and get married to Royal Loomis who seems interested in Mattie. [Rising Action] Mattie goes to a hotel to earn money so she can marry Royal. While there, Mattie gets possession of a girl’s letters to her lover, right before that girl drowns in the lake. [Climax] Mattie realizes that the girl was murdered by her lover through the letters and makes her final decision about what she’s going to do with her life: go to school to become a writer instead of marrying Royal. [Falling Action] Mattie gives money and letters to all of her family and friends before she decides to go to New York. She also gave the girl’s letters to the police so the girl’s death will be avenged. [Resolution] Mattie starts her life in hopes of achieving what she sets out for, going for her dreams rather than her father’s dreams. Theme: The themes in this novel include the future, murder, mystery, romance, life, and hope. Tone: The tone of this novel is very serious. Mattie is very conflicted about what she should do, either respecting her father’s wishes or going after her own dreams that she’s been thinking about all of her life. Style: The author’s writing style was very unique. For a few chapters, Mattie is in the present, reading the murdered girl’s letters to figure out what really happen; the following chapters goes back a few months, leading up to the murder, telling Mattie’s story and her life before she made her ultimate decision. Characterizations: Mattie is very bookish smart – she just wants to write and live a book life where there are happy endings. She takes care of her family and is very conflicted about disobeying her father, but she decides that she wants to see the mysteries of the world than to be a wife following her husband’s rules. Readability: This took a little time to read. The reader really needs to know when Mattie is talking in the present or the future, but once that is recognizable the story flies by, making the reader want to find out what happens next and how the novel will end.
2. My reactions to the book. The mystery, romance, and life complications really drew me into this novel. Mattie is very young for the decisions she has to make in her life and seeing her strength and decision process is a great attribute to this novel. The one downside, though, is trying to figure out which tense Mattie is telling her story throughout the chapters, but as stated above, once that’s realized the novel is a great read. The author stated at the end of the book that the events that happened with the girl who was murdered and her lover (Grace and Chester) actually did occur in real life. The information about Mattie, though, was fiction and was just to add to the storylike text in this novel.
3. Comment on the cover art. The cover art of the book that I read was the original hardback, rather than the updated edition of the novel. This older edition is very telling about what happens in the story, with the lake where Grace was killed and the lettering in the background showing Grace’s letters. It is a bit plain, though, and probably won’t grab a viewers attention because it looks old and not interesting. The newer cover will attract young girls because of the portrayal of the girl on the cover, looking mysterious and tortured, but not knowing why she looks that way.