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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)* by Heather Hayashi- young adult book review
Also by Libba Bray:

Going Bovine
The Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
by Libba Bray
Grades 7+ 832 pages Delacorte December 2007 Hardcover    

The Sweet Far Thing is the conclusion of Gemma Doyle’s adventures through the Realms and Spence Academy. It opens with Gemma back at Spence with Anne and Felicity, fretting over what to do with the Temple’s power that she bound to herself at the end of Rebel Angels.

After some initial difficulty, Gemma, Anne and Felicity return to the realms, where they find trouble lurking behind every corner. The fate of Pippa, their friend who chose to stay in the realms rather than face marriage to an elderly gentleman of her parents’ choosing, is still uncertain. And the creatures of the realms are becoming increasingly impatient with Gemma as she hesitates in sharing the power which she promised them in exchange for their assistance in defeating Circe. As Gemma navigates the treacherous waters of the Realms (both figuratively and literally), she must choose who to trust and what is really important in life.

There are many things to say about The Sweet Far Thing, both good and bad. Bray uses the book to bring the trilogy to a successful close. However, many may find the ending unsatisfying, especially because it is (as the title implies) not necessarily the happiest finale.

That being said, life doesn’t always end happily and the book reflects this; whether the reader enjoys the ending or not is personal opinion, rather than a consequence of whether it is well-written. Gemma’s decision at the end of the novel seems to come completely out of the blue; there is no precedence for it. However, she is a teenager, and teenagers are sometimes quite unpredictable. I believe the ending reflects reality (as much as a work of fantasy can do so) and do not take issue with it. I can understand why others have, though.

One source of irritation throughout the entire trilogy is character development (or lack thereof). At the beginning of the books, Gemma, Ann and Felicity are irresponsible teenage girls who haven’t a clue about the gravity of their situations, especially concerning the Realms. By the third book, a reader would expect that they had changed at least a little bit. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Throughout The Sweet Far Thing, I marveled at Gemma’s irresponsibility and complete lack of regard for the consequences of her actions. To her, the magic seems to be something that can provide herself and her friends a bit of fun rather than a power that can affect every being in the Realms. It’s very frustrating to read through this endless cycle of frivolity. Only toward the end of the book does Gemma seem to grasp the real precariousness of her situation. Even taking into account that this is a book for teenagers, this lack of common sense is rather maddening and makes the book less enjoyable.

Another exasperating aspect of the book is the sheer length. At 832 pages, the reader expects a jam-packed and thrilling conclusion to the series. Instead, it seems drawn-out and unnecessarily long. Bray could have cut out a good 100-200 pages and still covered the same topics (and the book probably would have been much better). Both A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels were difficult to put down because they were so engaging. The Sweet Far Thing seems somewhat lackluster in comparison.

All sources of irritation aside, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy is still a very solid read. Bray excels at suspense; throughout The Sweet Far Thing, the reader is at a complete loss as to whom Gemma can trust. Every time it seems like a character is trustworthy, they do something that arouses suspicion. The twists and turns of the novel are enjoyable as well. Bray doesn’t write an easy, smooth path for Gemma. Every decision is fraught with peril and has grave consequences, which the characters must learn for themselves throughout the book. The action scenes are also solid and will satisfy readers who become bored with the Victorian descriptions of coming-out parties which occupy much of the book.

While The Sweet Far Thing will leave some fans wanting, it is a solid conclusion to the extremely popular series. I look forward to reading Bray’s next novel, whatever it may be.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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