"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." (Goodreads synopsis)
"The carnival at Bray stood braced against the rain on the rocky coastline of the Irish Sea, the pink and green lights of the old-fashioned Ferris wheel winking and dissolving in the reflection of the waves." (The Carnival at Bray, Paragraph 1, Page 1)
Book, you had me at Ireland. I love Ireland. A few years ago, I got the amazing experience of driving around the beautiful island with my husband and I've been obsessed ever since. I wished I could say I've been to Bray, but we took a different highway to see the Rock of Cashel. This book REALLY makes me want to go back to Ireland...and to be a Nirvana fan. When I was sixteen, my best friend about disowned me when I had no clue who Kurt Cobain was...although, I did wear Teen Spirit. So there's that. Now, back to you, book.
At only 240 pages, this book is not a huge commitment, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to read it. This book has been on my radar ever since the Youth Media Awards as a Printz honor. I apologize, book, that it took me so long to read you.
The main character, Maggie, struggles with a lot of things that teens can relate to: divorced parents, a new step dad, being uprooted to a new school, being embarrassed by your family, being embarrassed by your family in front of the boy you like, making decisions that you end up regretting, and of course... CHIN ACNE (ugh, the worst).
This book has a lot of tough relationships, which I think is what makes it so real. The relationships between Maggie and her mother and Eoin and his mother are both difficult. This book does a wonderful job of capturing the hurt that can exist between teens and their mothers. Maggie hates and loves her mother. Maggie's mother is the person that throws herself into relationships, emotionally crashes at the end of the relationship, and then begins again. Maggie says some hurtful things to her mother and then will feel guilty over it. Eoin's mother is in a mental clinic for most of the time due to paranoid schizophrenia.
Another tough relationship is the relationship of Uncle Kevin to the family, and Uncle Kevin to Maggie. Kevin is constantly at odds with the family who can't condone his lifestyle choices. Maggie hero worships her Uncle Kevin, but Kevin has a lot of problems that Maggie is eventually forced to acknowledge.
I think it's Maggie's mother and Uncle Kevin who are the two people who have the ability to and manage to hurt Maggie the most. Which is why, when love interest Eoin tells Maggie: "I can be your person, you know. I can be the person who won't hurt you," you, the reader, fall in love at the same moment Maggie does. Major swoon moment.
If you love Ireland...or Kurt Cobain...or feel like you love your mother but can't stand her at the same time...or feel like you have to go on a journey to find yourself...pick up this book.
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