Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Fear, No Shame

Title: No Fear, No Shame
Author: Ann Turnbull
Genre: YA Fiction, Historical Fiction
Price: $15.99
ISBN: 0763625051

In the turmoil of post-civil war England, Ann Turnbull brings us the tale of a girl and a boy very much in love, but coming from very different worlds. Susanna is a young Quaker girl facing persecution because of her religion. Will is the son of a wealthy merchant and has recently returned from school and is looking for an apprenticeship. The two meet not long after Susanna is sent to live and work for a widow (also a Quaker) running a printshop and bookstore.

What Turnbull sets before us is a sort of Romeo and Juliet type of story, where two kids from two different worlds very nearly fall in love at first sight and decide they need to be together. The advantage here is no one kills themselves and the story is far less tragic than the drama it shares some themes with. The story moves with the typical pace of a young adult love story, quick and sudden and filled with over-the-top emotions. It captures very modern teen thought processes, though in a very historical setting, adding another layer of complications besides the usual, "Does he like me?" conundrum. Another plus is the fact that the story seems to fairly evenly cover both Susanna and Will, giving two sides of the story, allowing both the girl and the boy be goofy and in love. While I generally find myself annoyed by those horribly dorky girls who mope after boys (despite the fact I did some of that myself not too long ago), the fact that Turnbull adds in the male perspective makes for slightly more interesting reading.

Another interesting aspect of the novel is the historical setting. Turnbull focuses in on the world of the Quakers during the mid-17th century and gives the reader another layer of tension to deal with beyond the love story blossoming between the two main characters. Quakers are dissenters from the Church of England, and their worship is deemed illegal. Many view the Quakers, at best, as law-breakers, and, at worst, workers of some dark art. When Will, the son of a well-respected local, takes up with Susanna and then decides to become a Quaker himself, all Hell breaks loose in the kinds of moral questions one might ask.
Do you risk everything for the person you love?
Do you risk everything for your beliefs?
How far will you go for what is right?
Is it better to keep yourself and your family safe or to work towards the better good?

In all honesty, if Turnbull had just left the story at a romance between two teenagers, I probably would have dropped the book. The characters, while engaging, don't create enough of a story just between themselves. The addition of these moral questions genuinely made me stop and think about what I was reading and if what Susanna, Will, and their Quaker friends endured was really worth it. It's hard to not enjoy a book that not only has some entertainment value, but also gets you to think about your beliefs and what's important to you.

Comparable Reads: A Stitch in Time by Ann Rinaldi comes to mind immediately, though it comes from a different time period  and country (post-Revolutionary war in Salem, Massachusetts). It focuses on the oldest daughter of a well-to-do family coping with numerous issues and romance, some propelled by people others by the time period. The novel also tackles issues to do with the time period, such as the treatment and views of Native Americans, women, and slavery.

Who this book is for: I'm seeing 13 and 14 year old girls (and up) really enjoying this book. Susanna is 14 in the book and experiencing emotions almost any teenage girl would be familiar with. I also think a fan of historical fiction would enjoy the novel as it tastes of realism, though I won't assume or say everything written is historically accurate. It may be an interesting way to introduce a kid who's not so interested in history to some interesting historical concepts along with some timeless ones.

Happy Reading!!

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