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"When Willie is summoned from boarding school to help at home in 1896, she instead runs away to Indian Territory, assuming the identity and teaching post of a girl who is about to reject the job. Though Willie has not completed her own schooling, she knows that her experience will be ample for teaching at the Cherokee Female Seminary. But she finds that the students are much more cultured and educated than she expected, frequently outpacing her both socially and intellectually and challenging her teaching and interpersonal skills. Also testing her resolve are mysterious noises and sights, purportedly caused by the ghost of a lovelorn student who drowned and seems to be seeking justice—or revenge. This first novel effectively covers a good deal of ground: race and class issues, history, and a compelling ghost and love story are all entwined as plot points are teased out a bit at a time. The uncommon setting and time period add to the appeal, and an author’s note details the factual basis for the characters, issues, and story."
"This debut presents an intriguing look at a little-known piece of American history . . . the well-drawn characters and suspenseful plot should keep readers fully engaged."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Stunningly taut and entirely compelling, this blend of historical fiction, supernatural mystery, and romance will please fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Saundra Mitchell . . . Willie is a headstrong but tremendously flawed protagonist, and her status as both a hero and a liar, even at the close of the book, will make for some interesting discussion."
- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
When her mother insists she leave boarding school and come home, Willie, 17—a teen rebel à la 1896—assumes the identity of another student who's decided to decline a teaching position at the Cherokee Female Seminary.
Accepting the offer in her place, Willie heads to Tahlequah, Okla. Contrary to Willie's expectations, the seminary is an elegant, distinguished academic institution, educating students far wealthier and more cultured than she. Class and cultural differences divide the student body: Urban sophisticates, often of mixed-race, disdain the less-privileged, rural Cherokee girls and Willie herself, a white, rural Tennessean. Lately, strange noises and violent happenings have been plaguing the school. Is the ghost of a dead student, a revenant, responsible? Dismissive at first, Willie is soon drawn into the mystery and to Eli Sevenstar, a handsome, charismatic student at the nearby Cherokee men's seminary who may be involved. This debut presents an intriguing look at a little-known piece of American history: Opened in 1851, the Cherokee Nation's seminaries provided superior education to youth across the socioeconomic spectrum, including girls, for half a century.
While Willie's personal story and the school mystery don't always mesh, the well-drawn characters and suspenseful plot should keep readers fully engaged. (author's note) (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted January 2, 2012
A well-written, engaging young-adult historical novel. Native American history, ghosts, mystery, 1890s teen angst -- this is an entertaining read. Though I don't read YA very often, I look forward to future books by this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2011
Mixing genres can be a risky business, but Sonia Gensler proves she is a master literary chef with her debut novel, The Revenant - a sweeping historic thriller, with elements of your classic ghost story and Victorian romance.
The Revenant tells the story of 17-year-old Willie, who runs away from a home she can't fit in with, and assumes a stolen identity to become a teacher at the Cherokee Female Seminary. But life in Indian Territory is not like anything Willie expected. She struggles to teach students who come from wealthier backgrounds than her own, while also fighting a growing attraction to one of the young men from the neighboring boys' school. Then there's the troubling matter of strange happenings that everyone else believes are linked to the ghost of a student who drowned in the river the year before. Willie's not so quick to believe in ghosts, but as more strange (and increasingly perilous) events begin to transpire, even she can't deny that something nefarious is at work.
What struck me so much about The Revenant is how Gensler stays so true to her characters and the time period in which the story is set. As a modern reader, it's tempting to want your characters to just "go for it," but in a book that takes place in 1896, there are societal expectations that just can't be ignored. Gensler brilliantly stays true to the historical aspects of her setting, while at the same time building complex and dynamic relationships between her characters. She is a master of the Victorian courtship, and every stolen whisper and light touch of the hand is imbued with as much chemistry and sexual tension as that infamous "leg hitch" scene in Eclipse - so much so that you forget how chaste the interaction really is.
Gensler also brilliantly weaves in the history of the Cherokee Seminary School without once sacrificing an element of the story. Little bits of fact are sewn into the text seamlessly, offering a world that is all the more vivid for her efforts. Willie's experiences simply wouldn't be the same without such a lush historic backdrop as the one Gensler provides.
What's more, her characters are multi-faceted and engaging. Not only does Willie have an intriguing story, but so does Eli - that mysterious young man from the boys' school; Dr. Stewart, the charming young widower; Olivia, Willie's fellow teacher and confidant; and even Fannie, the student who seems out to get her teacher at any cost. Not one character falls into the trappings of caricature or stereotype. In truth, Gensler could easily write a library of companion novels to The Revenant, each one chronicling the stories of these other interesting characters.
Posted June 15, 2011
Based on Indian Territory during the late 1800's, THE REVENANT brings mystery and ghostly suspense to the forefront. The setting is unique but has the familiar school setting of clique's and local gossip. The strange incidents shrouded in mystery kept me turning the pages to see what dark secrets would be uncovered behind the walls of the Seminary.
Willie, although brash and full of misconceptions at times, is finding out all about the Cherokee culture first hand. Their belief in spirits or ghosts is shrugged off by Willie as idiocy. Soon, Willie has no choice to rethink the tales surrounding the death of a student whom maybe haunting the school - especially after constant sleepless nights consisting of strange sounds and violent incidents involving students. There were quite a few things I enjoyed about this book. First, Willie's defiance to start a new life under the pretense of lies was enough to keep me wondering if her scam would be exposed. Her fondness for Eli Sevenstar also provided a spark of forbidden romance that kept me wanting more. Finally, the secrets surrounding the haunting death of a student was enough to keep me turning the pages.
THE REVENANT is spooky and entertaining read! This book is another ghostly page turner that you can sink your teeth into. With its lush setting and historical intrigue, I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction who wouldn't mind a dose of paranormal on the side.
Posted September 12, 2011
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