Who needs to blog every [other] month?! Not I.
I kicked off my summer MG reading with these two delightful books by Rebecca Behrens, both with charming female protagonists shaped by their interactions with characters from the past. [Note, mild spoilers ahead]
In When Audrey Met Alice, 13yo Audrey is struggling to adjust to the role of First Daughter and stumbles across the diary of Alice Roosevelt, whose [mis]adventures inspire Audrey to some shenanigans and maturing of her own. If you enjoyed 90s movies about White House kids, you’ll enjoy this one.
In Summer of Lost and Found, Nell Dare has to forgo her chic summer in the city and settle for an anthrobotanical (I think I just invented a clothing line) expedition to Roanoke Island with her mother. Nell is swept into the mystery of the missing colonists and must confront her own fears about her family disintegrating as she helps a friend search for his father.
What struck me most about these books was the way Behrens weaves historical narratives into her plots. Neither would be classified as historical fiction, and yet the reader gets a walloping dose of history, enough to hopefully inspire a young reader to keep researching the topic beyond the novel. (Behrens’s postscript to When Audrey Met Alice explains that her interpretation of Alice Roosevelt isn’t meant to be biographical, but a little digging will reveal that she certain captured the spirit of a very spirited young lady. I was only disappointed to learn that Alice’s later life and marriage is rather tragic.)
Both novels succeed with a character using slightly-antiquated speech, tricky to do in a MG novel where your audience might be easily put off by the unfamiliar. But I think she succeeds because both old fashioned characters’ speech isn’t quite as formal as writing from their own period, but just enough to give the reader a taste. DEFINITELY A SPOILER: Summer of Lost and Found does an especially nice job of playing up the differences with Ambrose’s attempts to sound modern––humorous and a clue!
Both novels also alternate the present day with diary passages, immersing the reader in the other timeline and furthering a subplot that runs parallel to the main story. I love using found documents in storytelling, and these work well because they are 1) shorter than the main chapters, 2) highlight only the key events from the past that we need to know, 3) act as foreshadowing for when those events (or the effects of those events) play out in the present.
Looking forward to the next book from this author!