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Great & Terrible Beauty
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British actress Wyatt has already proved herself keenly adept at handling a complex audiobook role, as Lyra in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Here, she effortlessly becomes 16-year-old Gemma, a 19th-century British girl who finds herself possessed of the frightening and supernatural ability to see dark visions of the future, including the violent death of her mother. Bray's gripping and suspenseful debut novel provides the perfect canvas for Wyatt, who alternately conveys fear, agitation and guilt and sometimes invokes the hissing tone of all things sinister. Gemma's journey from her childhood home in India to a posh London boarding school, combined with her forays into a chilling otherworld, will likely take hold of many teen listeners (and general fiction fans as well). Colorful details of Indian bazaars and the Spence School in London make this outing all the more compelling. Ages 12-up. (Dec. 2003) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Gr 9 Up-Libba Bray's new Gothic tale of a Victorian girls school with a deadly secret (Delacorte, 2003) is brought to life in Josephine Bailey's nuanced reading. At 16, Gemma must leave the only home she's known-colonial India-when her mother kills herself under bizarre circumstances and Gemma is both confused and intrigued by the details. Although she longed to see London while her family lived abroad, Gemma is disappointed to find that she's being packed off to finishing school there. At school, she stands up to the very circle of girls who seem to hold the most power, while also dealing with weird hallucinations and the furtive presence of the young man she first saw in Bombay on the day of her mother's death. The school and its administration hold fast to a secret about the class of 1871, which passed through it nearly a quarter century before Gemma's stay. As friendships develop between Gemma and three of the other students, and several of her teachers reveal interesting personal sides of themselves, the plot and the reader both tug the audience into the creepy depths beneath a cave on the school grounds. There the living girls find a pleasurable world populated by goddess figures-and Gemma's dead mother. How all this ultimately connects with that mysterious class of 1871 will delight Gothic fans and inspire those new to the genre to taste such classic writers in it as Daphne du Maurier. The audiobook is further enhanced with an afterword spoken by the author-a young Texas woman who describes how she researched the background details she needed to realize a story set in a place and time so far from her own daily experiences. Highly recommended for all collections serving high school students.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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