Best of: books for ages 14-18 #10: ‘A Gathering Light’ by Jennifer Donnelly
Based partly on the true story of the death of Grace Brown, but also highly fictionalised, ‘A Gathering Light’, or ‘A Northern Light’ in the USA, where it was first published, received the 2003 Carnegie Medal.
A historical novel, it documents the life of the 16-year-old protagonist, Mattie Gokey, who gets mixed up in a crime. Set in the early 1900s, its detailed and highly descriptive prose allows you to really feel yourself in the world of the time.
Incredibly, this is a first novel. It combines romance, murder mystery and history, blending them seamlessly into a novel that never fails to delight those who enjoy any of the above genres.
More than any one genre, the true magic of ‘A Gathering Light’ is how relatable it is. For a modern teenager, Mattie’s strong feelings – her desire to prove herself, her craving for company, and her astonishment at the society she finds herself in – will almost always strike a chord. Combining the historical with the universality of human, and particularly teenage, experience, this novel is a must-read for anyone of any age at any time.
By the same author: Four other novels and a picture book.