In my Young Adult Literature class I require my students to write a book review for two of the books they read for their trimester project. I’ve recently started using Goodreads in my classroom and have my students post their reviews there. We looked at a variety of blogger reviews so they could get a feel for how a review can be written. After receiving permission from my students, I’m posting one of them today.
Author: Kirby Larson
Student Reviewer: Jessica T.
Summary (From Goodreads): Alone in the world, teen-aged Hattie is driven to prove up on her uncle’s homesteading claim.
For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie’s been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle’s homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends–especially Charlie, fighting in France–through letters and articles for her hometown paper.
Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a “Loyal” American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie’s determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.
Student Review: I enjoyed reading Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and I am glad that I did. The conflict that Hattie faces to prove up her homestead is believable. The troubles she encounters and the obstacles she has to find a way to overcome find their way to make the novel out to be very convincing. The setting enabled the book to be all the more intriguing, but was not overdone with all the unnecessary usual boring details. The sky is described often, and at first the title troubled me until I learned that Montana is known as “Big Sky Country.” Now that I know this knowledge, I feel the novel name fits perfectly.
I favored the pace, the humor, and the fact that it is historical fiction. I also commend the author on how she included letters consistently through from Hattie’s uncle and her “school chum” Charlie. I found the ones Hattie received back to be of interest. It was always exciting to see those italicized words that the letters held. I never found any part of the book confusing.
I felt as if I knew Hattie well and thoroughly. I admired the way she always stood up for herself and the deep care she possessed for others. She’s determined, persistent, and at times hard-headed. The other characters were described efficiently as well. Her love-hate relationship with Traft Martin made the book seem even more realistic. Even though Hattie’s aunt was not a main character, the author still found a way for the reader to understand her aunt’s ways and opinions completely.
The only factor I would say turned out to be disappointing is the way the author finished off the novel. I felt like the resolution was rushed, and did not turn out the way that it needed to or should have. The ending chapters gave me the impression that the author became sick of writing, and therefore the last chapters are dissatisfying. If the conclusion would have been better, this novel would have been a five-star rating by my judgment.
Far as recommendations go, the people who would like reading this are the ones who prefer or have at least a bit of interest in the genre of historical fiction. Anybody with an open mind might find themselves pleasantly surprised by how much they would enjoy this novel also.