Let’s get it out of the way at the beginning: Yeah, I read that Slate piece this summer, shaming the uncultured, lowbrow adult readers of YA fiction, and my response is the kind of intense eyeroll I haven’t given since my teens.
(Speaking of that essay: When the author makes the faux-concession statement that those high culture / low culture thinkpieces require, about how at least this plebby non-literature is getting the uncultured masses to open a book, the author name-drops a TV show. Slate thoughtfully links the Amazon page where readers can immediately purchase it. With an affiliate link. Hilarious.)
Labyrinth Society: The Versailles Vendetta by Angie Kelly is cheery, chatty, time-traveling tween fiction, and it doesn’t hurt that the protagonists are a trio of tween girls.
Female-authored fiction for a young, female audience is often disparaged by calling the characters all Mary Sues. (Among other ways, I mean, like calling them beach reads and airport novels, and other things that mean well, if you have the time to waste, I guess you can enjoy it. Oops, got sidetracked, this isn’t a post on all the ways that novels written by women for the enjoyment of primarily women get downplayed!) Mary Sues have something to do with wish fulfillment, they’re too awesome, their dialogue is too snappy and their luck is too good, like we don’t all read books to see interesting characters doing exciting things.
This is a short novel about three adopted girls, who live in a mansion full of exotic, and usually enchanted, relics that their foster mother, a strangely ageless archaeologist, has collected. They travel through time rescuing historical artifacts, usually racing against unscrupulous antiquities dealers. Also there is an handsome British groundskeeper, loads of secrets, magic time-travel jewelry, and also a pair of glitter Chucks. It it exactly the kind of story I would dream up when I was supposed to be paying attention in middle-school classes, and I mean that in the best way.
Sure, there’s a lot of time-traveling escapism, but at the same time, the novel’s about chosen family and female friendships, telling the story of a prickly third foster-daughter joining a home that’s both a great deal happier than her previous houses but also so full of secrets. And instead of one female sidekick along on the typical adventure team, we have three girls with different personalities working together to save history.
Read it for yourself, if you’re intrigued by magical teenager historians, and a teen novels without the obligatory love triangle, or just to be the coolest Auntie or Uncle to the middle-school girl in your life.
I received a copy of Labyrinth Society: The Versailles Vendetta from the publisher to review.