by Saundra Mitchell
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Amelia van den Broek is sent from her brother's home in Maine to Baltimore in the summer of 1889 to make social connections and find herself a suitable husband. Along with her cousin, Zora Stewart, Amelia finds herself swept up in the excitement of lavish balls, social calls, and charming young suitors. Nothing seems out of the ordinary... until one day when she has a vision of the future at sunset.
Under the prodding of her excited cousin, Amelia is soon the talk of the town as "Maine's Own Mystic", invited to give readings for those eager to know their futures. But not all of Amelia's visions are viewed as good omens, and she struggles with the acceptance of her gift, even as tragedy threatens to destroy everything.
I thought this sounded like a really intriguing book. I quite liked the premise and the way it was written (even though I had to look up a ton of words... there are some words from 1889 that we just don't use anymore!).
However, I never felt like I could connect with Amelia. Even though the story is told from the first person point of view, I didn't feel like I knew her. Perhaps part of it was the historical aspect, but a lot of the time, I just didn't understand why she did what she did or felt the way she felt.
I actually preferred the minor characters, including the young men who acted as love interests for the girls. Again, though, there were some problems with character development (or, really, a lack of it), so that certain character actions seemed a little forced. Yes, certain attributes were hinted at... but not enough to prevent me from scratching my head in places when things went awry.
There were also places in the narrative that were downright confusing. Conversations between characters were often peppered with Amelia's observations, which made me have to go back and read the dialogue again to have any sense of a coherent conversation. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose, but I found it rather distracting.
The plot is fairly sparse, so many of the pages in the book are taken up with the silly (by today's standards) social customs of 1889 Baltimore. For a long time, I wondered if the story was even going anywhere. Then, in the last 50 pages, things started to pick up, and they didn't stop until they reached a dizzying conclusion. While the ending kind of saved the whole book, it wasn't enough to erase my annoyance at having to read so many seemingly irrelevant pages to get there.
All in all, I'd say this is a fairly good story, and it would probably appeal to those who enjoy historical romance (with a paranormal twist).
Overall: 3.6 out of 5