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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Chicago Weekly Best Books of 2014 A Michael L. Printz Honor Award Winner Winner, 2014 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014 Finalist, William C. Morris Award It's 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she'll ever find her place in this new world. When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life- altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish. Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all, live. The Carnival at Bray is an evocative ode to the Smells Like Teen Spir…

The Carnival at Bray

by Jessie Ann Foley

Overall Book Review:

Two things I loved about this book right away? That the protagonist, Maggie Lynch used to live in Chicago, and that there is a carnival mentioned in the title. Two things I didn’t like as much? The cover art (so old fashioned!) and the fact that this book doesn’t stay focused on Chicago. However, I quickly got over my qualms once I began to dig a little deeper into this book.

Maggie is a very likeable character. I felt like Maggie was real. Her world was realistic, too, and this is something I think teens crave (along with the completely unreal of course, like vampires and werewolves). Even though this story is set in 1993, it still felt relevant to today. It turns out teens have the same problems today as they did 22 years ago. This book pretty much has it all: a teen girl who is missing home, falling in love, losing someone you love, music, and an island that has a fantastical carnival. (If you can’t tell, I am pretty enchanted by carnivals. Something about them just seems so magical!).

A cautionary note that this book does contain some stuff that I probably would have been a little freaked out by at the age of 13, so even though this book is marketed for teens, I think it is much better suited for ages 18 and up.  (See content review below.) A good book can wait so if you’re young and devouring every book out there, you might just wait on this one. There are plenty of other books to read in the meantime!

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  12 religious exclamations; 11 mild obscenities; 4 religious profanities; 6 derogatory names; 17 scatological words; 11 anatomical terms; 29 F-Word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  A character is mentioned to have died in his sleep; a character is mentioned to have been trampled to death by a bull; two characters get into a fight, blood is briefly described; a girl throws a bottle in anger; a minor girl admits she cuts to self-harm; a mentally ill woman tries to strangle her son; a character cuts his wrists in an attempt to commit suicide; a character shoots self to commit suicide.

Sex/Nudity:  Sex is referred to as “doing it”; a minor girl gives a boy oral sex in one non-descriptive scene; porn is mentioned with no detail; sex is observed between two adults by a minor; a girl reads a sex scene in a book; a woman’s breasts are admired and referred to; a man lusts after women; two minors are mentioned to have their first kiss; a minor boy and girl make out; teen pregnancy occurs and is referred to; a movie is shown where a woman is in labor, there is a brief discussion about this; two minors kiss, the boy touches the girl’s breasts; a brief scene of a woman nude in a non-sexual way occurs; a minor boy starts to undress a girl and sex is implied to occur; a minor boy and girl sleep together; a woman says she just had sex; a minor girl thinks about what it would be like to undress in front of a boy; a minor girl hears her parents having sex.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, divorce, underage drinking, illegal drug use/drinking by minors, suicide, teen pregnancy.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink wine; adults smoke; minors smoke pot in brief scene; a minor drinks whiskey; a man is referred to as a druggie; a man is mentioned to overdose on pills; a man is mentioned to snort cocaine.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Books and reading have always been an important part of my life. When I was very young, my grandma was the library director at our local public library. Years later, after she had retired, I became a librarian at the same library and worked there for several years before taking a part-time job at a local coffee shop, which gives me more time to do what I love, to read and to review books! A few of my favorite authors are Aimee Bender, Diane Chamberlain, and Curtis Sittenfeld however, I will read almost any book I come across! In my spare time you can find me reading (of course), volunteering at a wildlife animal rehab, or hanging out with my two house rabbits.