I had the good fortune to win recently two books by Canadian writer Marthe Jocelyn through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Both novels are published by Tundra Books.
Folly was released just this spring, and it is a young-adult historical novel based in the late 1800's. The title refers to the folly of Mary, a young woman working as a servant in a London household. Through Mary's eyes and those of three other characters, we see how the consequences of her actions are played out.
This is a well-written, easy-to-read and engaging story that shows the brutal reality of life for the very poor in Victorian London. The paths of the characters intertwine and slowly work toward a satisfactory, if perhaps somewhat predictable, ending.
Would You?, published a year earlier, is also written for teens. It is set in contemporary times and it is an honest account of how a teenager deals with the days following an accident which sends her older sister into a coma. It is a short, intense novel, in which the ordeal is seen through the eyes of the narrator, Claire.
One aspect of the novel I particularly liked is how Jocelyn contrasts the unthinkable with the mundane. This is not so much a novel that one enjoys but rather experiences, and I found at times, it was hard to put down. Would You? is a fast, easy read in simple language suitable for a reluctant teen reader.
After reading both books, I am most impressed by Jocelyn's range. If there's one thing that Jocelyn does particularly well, it's that she gives characters believable voices, whatever the setting may be. On a personal note, I was pleasantly surprised to find out from the bio on Jocelyn's Web site that she spends her summers in Stratford, Ontario, a town I visit regularly to attend the Shakespeare festival. It's always nice to find talent just around the corner.
Reviewed by Paulina.