March 14, 2014

Ready to Become a Fan of...Jennifer Donnelly

Ready to Become a Fan of... focuses on those authors new and old whose works I have every intention of eventually reading, but haven't been able to devote the time to just yet. By discussing authors and their works that I'm sure I'll love, given the chance, hopefully I can be more easily compelled to take the next step in not simply acquiring one of their books, but actually take the time to read it.

This month I'm putting on record that I am ready to become a fan of Jennifer Donnelly.

About the author:
Jennifer Donnelly is probably best known for writing A Northern Light and other young adult works of historical fiction. A Northern Light was a 2004 Printz Honor book, as well as a 2003 winner of the Carnegie Medal, along with numerous other awards. Besides A Northern Light, Donnelly has published The Tea Rose trilogy, Revolution, a book for children, and has just announced a four-book contract with Disney Press about mermaids.

Work I'm most looking forward to reading:
A Northern Light

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. 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 the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original. (Goodreads)

Why this author & this work:
I love reading a good work of historical fiction. Love it. Although fantasy is my favorite genre, I think there are many similarities that can be made between a good work of fantasy and a good work of historical fiction. Both types of novels are meant to transport readers to eras and places they’ll never experience. Both function as an introduction to a life we can never have and characters we will never meet whether it’s because that era has already passed or will never be doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. As with fantasies, I read historical fiction to be swept away in a story about a life unlike my own.

What makes great works of historical fiction a tad more impressive than fantasy works is that authors cannot rely solely on their own imagination, but generally do a fair amount of research to make their stories as factual as possible. As someone who prefers to go above and beyond on research projects, I like and respect the effort historical fiction writers put into their works.

And yet I’ve come to the slow realization that my historical fiction reading tastes have been rather limited in the past. I’ve read a ton of books about medieval to nineteenth-century England (and bordering European countries), Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt...and that’s primarily it. Partially to blame, I think, is just that I haven’t found books that have really compelled me to step outside of my historical fiction comfort zones. Reading historical fiction does require a bit of learning on the reader’s part, and sometimes it’s nice to continue to read about a time period where I have a basic understanding already formed. I’m betting, however, that Jennifer Donnelly’s works may help me gain an appreciation of new focuses in historical fiction, and make me want to continue with that trend.

As if the plethora of honors this book has received aren’t reason enough, I also have yet to see a single negative review on A Northern Light. This seems to be regarded as Donnelly’s most highly regarded work, so of course I want to start with her best! I haven’t had much of an interest in American history and have never heard of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, but I’m hoping reading this book will solve those issues.

For those of you who've already read some of Jennifer Donnelly’s works, I'd appreciate hearing what you think about them. For those who also haven't read her works yet, let me know what's been holding you back!

Ready to Become a Fan of... is an original feature of Late Nights with Good Books.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Oh, I was SO excited to see this post in my reader. I absolutely adore Jennifer Donnelly, and I'm totally supportive of you discovering her work :) I look forward to seeing what you think of A Northern Light - and her other books if you continue on after that.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Hannah! I definitely do plan on picking up her books relatively soon. Maybe really soon, as I've been on a great historical fiction kick recently. :) I'll have to let you know when I start reading some of her works.


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