A Northern Light This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
     I love words. They've always heldme captive with their sounds and meanings. Words have the power totranscend time and circumstance and get straight to emotion. They canlift you up, they can bring you down, but most importantly, they cantake you far, far away.

Mattie Gokey in A Northern Light feels asI do about words. Since her mother's death, things have gottendifficult, and words seem her only solace. She reads every moment shecan, and dreams of going to college in New York City. More thananything, she wants to be a writer, but money is tight and her dreamseems impossible. Her father and sisters need all she earns for food andclothing. Plus, in 1906, the journey from upstate New York to the citywas long and would take Mattie too far from her sisters who need her.Mattie keeps her thoughts to herself, secretly planning and hoping tofind a way, if and when the moment is right.

Mattie does havealternatives, though. She could marry the handsome Royal Loomis, whodespite his good looks has the intellectual capacity of a rock, andbecome a farm wife - how dull! Or, she could work at a hotel and sendmost of her earnings home. She chooses the latter, though her feelingsfor Royal and her desire to follow her dreamsconflict.

Mattie's inner turmoil comes to a head when ahotel guest makes an unusual request. When the body of that young womanis pulled from the lake, Mattie realizes that she must make a decision:either follow her heart or stay put.

Based upon the same truestory that sparked Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy,Jennifer Donnelly's Michael L. Printz Award-winning and GatewayAward-nominee A Northern Light smoothly blends history, romance and abit of mystery.

Donnelly brings to life the trials andtribulations of Mattie Gokey and it is impossible not to feel herconfusion. The reader will inevitably find herself rootingsimultaneously for Mattie to marry Royal and to leave him in the dust.

The novel is full of subtle paradoxes, making it a testament tothe uncertainty of adolescence. Donnelly demonstrates a realunderstanding of Mattie Gokey, right down to the detail of titling thechapters with some of Mattie's words from her word collection.Mattie Gokey is a believable, unforgettable character, and her story isan example of the power of words.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 8 at 1:38 pm
i love this !
Eman_Neercs This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 28, 2010 at 10:21 am
I liked this book, too. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one.
Site Feedback