Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

genre: young adult fiction

When Maggie arrives in Ireland it is 1993.  She is with her mother, her mother's new Irish husband, and her younger sister and for someone as lonely as Maggie, the misty coastal town of Bray seems to fit her mood.  Introverted and insecure, Maggie's foray into her new Catholic School is about as successful as mother's ability to be stable and sober.  When her favorite uncle comes to visit and everything changes, a few specific people Maggie has found in her new Irish town will help her to realize not only the girl she can be, but the kind of life she deserves to have.

At first, I was not thrilled.  Maggie's life is depressing, she makes some stupid choices and the whole feel of the book was so grungy and depressing.  But, strangely enough, after something particularly sad happens, I found myself being more emotionally involved in the story - even though I had guessed this particular thing was going to happen.  Part of it is that Maggie wakes up to her life, part of it is a lovely romantic piece, part of it is just the really stark and poetic prose.  I appreciated the thread of music love it in (even if Nirvana wasn't my actual favorite), that really made me nostalgic for my own piece of 1993 and how much the music scene was a part of my life.  The Ireland of this book felt real - it's people and places were believable to me without shoving LOOK!  WE'RE IN IRELAND in my face.   I can't say I loved it but by the final third, I cared about the people in it and I enjoyed the rest of the journey.

Note for sensitive readers, there is language and some graphic content

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