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The Gemma Doyle Trilogy review

0 comments, 07/05/2016, by , in At-a-glance, Entertainment

A secret magic world is hardly an original concept for a young adult book, but Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy manages to stand out with it’s relatable well-developed characters, clever narrator, and wonderful world building.

The first book starring Gemma Doyle is A Great and Terrible Beauty, published in 2003, takes place in the late 1800s and follows Gemma as she deals with her mother’s mysterious death and it’s consequences. Gemma is sent to Spence, a finishing school in England where she experiences strange visions. The story follows Gemma as she navigates the tricky world that is an all girls school and uncovers the origin and meaning of her visions. As the story goes on with the books Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing Gemma learns more about her powers, the world behind them, and her place in that world.

At Spence Gemma meets Felicity Worthington, Pippa Cross, and Ann Bradshaw. Felicity is the daughter of a famous admiral and a mean girl. Pippa is Felicity’s devastatingly beautiful sidekick. Ann is a scholarship student who’s often bullied and Gemma’s roommate. These girls form a complicated but strong friendship. Throughout the three books, each of these complex characters undergoes amazing development. As both Gemma and the reader uncover more about these girls they become more human. Each character is distinct and layered. There’s something for everyone to relate to.

The book deals with issues relevant to teens even now. The isolation and sometimes overwhelming loneliness that comes with growing up is a concept explored in almost all the characters. Every character feels this in different ways Ann through her lower social class, Gemma through her responsibilities, Felicity through her secrets, and Pippa through a series of events that should not be spoiled. It’s comforting thing to read for any teenagers going through the same thing. The book also deals with the complicated healing process that comes with loss, dealing with parents with issues, self harm, the pressures society puts on women, abuse, and being gay in a world that deems it inappropriate.

Another distinguishing feature is the books’ humor. Some examples of this:

  • ‘“One could argue that it’s romantic to die for love. Of course, then you’re dead and unable to take that honeymoon trip to the Alps with all the other fashionable young couples, which is a shame.”’
  • ‘“He’s attracted to the smell of manure,” Felicity says. “You might wallow in the tables to bring out the flower of his love.”’
  • “Beauty, grace, and charm my foot. It’s a school for sadists with good tea-serving skills.”

The plot is predictable at times, but still compelling because of the reader’s investment in the characters and their fates. There’s also a good measure of star crossed romance. Overall the books are interesting and touching and well worth a read. The books are available on Amazon, iBooks, and Kindle.

By Sienna Mata

photo: fanart by bevsi

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