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A Northern Light (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

this is one of my favorite historical fiction novels for young adults.

New York state-1906, 16 year-old Mattie wants badly to attend college to become a writer. While working at the inn to earn money for college, a guest named Grace Brown asks her to burn a stack of secret letters. Shortly after the request, Grace's body is found in the nearby lake; might the letters hold the key to her murder? 


— From Shannon's Picks


Now with a fresh new look and introduction, comes Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing, Printz Honor-winning debut—the story of a young woman's coming-of-age and the murder that rocked turn-of-the-century America.​​

A Printz Award Honor Book

"A contemporary classic. Jennifer Donnelly is the master of historical fiction!" ­—Ruta Sepetys, New York Times best-selling author and winner of the Carnegie Medal

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has a word for everything, and big dreams of being a writer but little hope of seeing them come true. With the fresh pain of her mother’s death lingering over her and the only out from her impoverished life being marriage to the handsome but dull local rich boy, Maddie flees from her home. 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.

About the Author

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of eleven novels including the Waterfire Saga, The Tea Rose series, Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, and A Northern Light.  She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.
Twitter: @JenWritesBooks

Praise For…

A Printz Award Honor Book
Carnegie Medal Winner, United Kingdom
A 2011 ALA Popular Paperbacks Title

"A contemporary classic. Jennifer Donnelly is the master of historical fiction!" ­—Ruta Sepetys, New York Times best-selling author and winner of the Carnegie Medal

Starred Review This is a breathtaking tale, complex and often earthy ... Donnelly's characters ring true to life, and the meticulously detailed setting forms a vivid backdrop to this finely crafted story.
--School Library Journal

Starred Review ... (an) ambitious, beautifully written coming-of-age story ... Many teens will connect with Mattie's fierce yearning for independence and for stories, like her own, that are frank, messy, complicated and inspiring. --Booklist

A Northern Light is a quintessential coming-of-age story ... exceptionally well told. Honest and unflinching in its portrayal of loss, poverty, racism, and pregnancy, it nonetheless avoids melodrama and polemic. --Christian Science Monitor
Product Details
ISBN: 9780358063681
ISBN-10: 035806368X
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 7th, 2019
Pages: 416
Language: English