The Gemma Doyle Trilogy

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

This is a ton of words about a girls only boarding school in Victorian society. I think each goes over the 600 pages mark, with the last one ending in double that. No wonder I didn’t manage in the three weeks the library gave me, no matter how easy to read the novels are.

It’s not just boarding school; main character Gemma has to adjust to a new country (she moves to England from India), her family falling apart, and oh yeah – having a magical connection to another world.

So, Gemma has to juggle new friendships and enemies, magic, society’s expectations of a young woman, school, and a crush on a may-or-may-not-be bad guy.

Usually the first book out of a series, is the strongest, but I think I enjoyed the second one more this time. Everything and -one is fitted more into the right space, and the magical world(s) are developed a bit more. The third book is seemingly never ending, but gives a sobering, slightly surprising conclusion.

I’d take breathers between the three of them, or just go for Libba Bray’s other work. The Diviners, for example.

The Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray, Random House Children’s Books 2007

Lair of Dreams

Every city is a ghost.

Oh man, sometimes I’m just lucky to have a book. The first book of the series blew me away, this one -the second- easily caught up.

There’s a few new characters, a new creep and new surroundings added. But the fun, speed and adventure is still here, and I breezed through the pages once more. It’s the roaring twenties and thirties, the eye for detail without having it drag down the story.

This time there is a mysterious sleeping sickness, Diviners (and imposters) popping up around the place and terrifying metro stations. But with fun, different kind of female characters, and pizazz. I just hope I can repeat myself for the third book.

The Diviners: Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray, Little, Brown and Company 2015

The Diviners

In a town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.

Yay, finally! It feels like this book has been on my list for at least five years, but because it’s 2016 and the book was published in 2012, that’s not possible. Anyway, it felt like a long time. And now I finally read it.

First of all, for ‘YA’ it’s a big novel, over 500 pages. Secondly: there’s no love triangle. Adjust to that, and add Roaring Twenties, diverse characters with diverse motivations, and a scary edge that keeps it just teen friendly enough.

Something bad is happening, and it isn’t impeding economical doom. Luckily the main characters all have some kind of power, they just have to stay alive long enough to understand it and the reason for having it.

It’s the first book of a four book series, but luckily Bray doesn’t go for huge, annoying cliffhangers to invite you to hang on. The story itself manages to do that.

The Diviners, Libba Bray, Little, Brown and Company 2012

Beauty Queens

The book begins with a plane crash.

Sometimes it’s very on the nose (for someone who calls herself an intersectional feminist), but I’m very pleased that Libba Bray unapologetically laces this story with lessons about racism, sexism and feminism. I was looking for another book by Bray, but any will do if you want to discover the style of an author.

Beauty Queens on their way to a pageant end up in a plane crash. While they slowly discover that they’re worth more than their looks, the sponsor and producer interject commercials and hostile take overs to make sure the reader still remembers her place.

It’s a parody, a complaint, an educational pamphlet and a book stuffed to the brim with girl power. Just when it gets a bit too much, it adds heart. A smart read for both girls and boys.

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray, Scholastic 2012