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Review: The Vespertine

February 26, 2011

Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Release Date: March 7, 2011
Pages: 304
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: Galley via NetGalley

There are three things that will ALWAYS make me pick up a book:  1) historical setting. 2) female main character. 3) Love interest who is an artist/musician/bohemian-type person. Being drawn to these types of stories, I have read many of them, some good, some very opposite of good. And I am glad to report that The Vespertine is great.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book at first. It’s told through narrative flashbacks of Amelia van der Broeck’s disastrous summer spent in Baltimore. The first couple of chapters are pretty Debbie Downer-y and I was concerned that the entire book would be told in a very gray tone. But as soon as the story of Amelia’s time in Baltimore launched, I was hooked.

The basic story is that Amelia, a teenage girl from Maine, is sent to Baltimore by her middle class brother so she can find a husband in proper society. Sponsored by the Stewarts, a middle class, but well-connected family who have a spunky, vivacious daughter, Zora, Amelia is introduced to Baltimore society. Amelia and Zora become fast friends and quickly find themselves falling in love.

After Amelia reveals to Zora and her group of friends that she has visions during sunset, the girls insist on having their fortunes read. When Amelia’s visions begin to come true, and the girls tell others of her gift, women from all walks of life start calling on Amelia.

In the midst of this, Amelia has met Nathaniel, an artist who is beneath her station in society, and she is completely intoxicated by him. Their connection is fiery, passionate, and where many teen girls’ first love only seem like a deep connection, Amelia and Nathaniel’s bond is truly elemental–she has visions in fire and he comes to her in the wind. (Btw, Chapter 15 is HOT HOT HOT.) I was a little concerned he was going to be a Wickham, but luckily, he is only the good parts of Wickham if you know what I mean.

But when one of Amelia’s darker visions comes true, tragedy strikes in a big way and only brings more tragedy with it. Sent away from Baltimore full of shame, guilt, and heartache, she returns to Maine, but continues to have visions that could potentially wreak havoc on those around her.

Although all of this happens very near the end of the book, a twist on literally the last page will let you breathe a sigh of relief even though all of the story lines don’t completely resolve. I definitely suggest this book to anyone who has eyes and the ability to read the English language.

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