Northern Light

Northern Light

3.82 (32,407 ratings by Goodreads)
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Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has a word for everything, and big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can't write down in stories.

The fresh pain of her mother's death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going--visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.

Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from Big Moose Lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.Set in 1906 in the Adirondack Mountains, against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this Printz Honor-winning coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Paperback | 396 pages
  • 132 x 202 x 40mm | 280g
  • Harcourt Brace International
  • Orlando, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0152053107
  • 9780152053109
  • 41,976

Review quote

A 2011 ALA Popular Paperbacks Title
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Rating details

32,407 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 27% (8,817)
4 39% (12,561)
3 26% (8,281)
2 6% (2,094)
1 2% (654)

Our customer reviews

I don't read much Historical Fiction, and much less Young-Adult Historical Fiction. For me it's combining a present day voice with a past tense feel and trying to come up with something that can appeal to us now but ring true for the past. Not everyone can do that successfully, but Jennifer Donnelley did an amazing job. She created a voice in Mattie Gokey that immediately pulled me into the story and found Mattie a place in my heart. Any girl that loves to read is all right with me. Any girl that wants to write is immediately going to make an impression on me. And any girl that would leave her family and risk having no money and no one just so she can finally live her own life and follow her dream is amazing. I will admit that it took me a while to come to that conclusion, because I don't think I would have left my family behind, even if it wasn't my responsibility. It isn't their responsibility either and they're left with it, but Mattie definitely took the reins for so long it was about time someone else did too. Mattie wants to pursue her love of books. I think her intense love for them is what initially bonded us together. It was her strength and tenacity later on that made me love her even more. Her mother died and now Mattie and her family are left without her in a harsh 1906 New York. Mattie takes care of her siblings and her father so thoroughly that when she wants to start a life of her own, it seems impossible at times. Jennifer Donnelley also tackled discrimination in this book, making a secondary-character come to life in a big way. When Weaver defended himself and his race at the train station I was terrified for him. I loved his voice and it brought a welcome freshness to this story. Something else I loved was the representation of New York in the early 1900's. Jennifer's writing was beautiful and imaginative. I could see everything perfectly and this book became a movie inside of my head. The characters were rich in personality and they were portrayed in a way that brought the era of the story together wonderfully. As for the other part of the story involving Grace Brown I wasn't as much of a fan. I felt bad for her situation, and I think ultimately Grace is the reason why Mattie made up her mind to leave in the end, so in a way Grace's story became Mattie's future, which when you think about it makes Grace's character probably the most important one. If your dream clashed with your responsibilities, which would you choose? That's the question Mattie struggled with throughout the book, and you're going to have to read this to understand the bone deep and heartfelt way Mattie came up with a solution. Overall this is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. It opened my eyes to the genre and my heart. Mattie is a character that will stick with me for a very long time and her story even longer. I would absolutely recommend this to not only historical fiction lovers, but anyone who's ever felt like life was swallowing them more
by Reading For Fun
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