by Franny Billingsley
In A Nutshell
Enter a gloomy world with horrors, hangings, witches, ghosts, fires, floods, and creepy nursery rhymes and songs. Add a pinch of self-loathing, friendship, love triangles, and family drama, then let it all boil and bubble under a full moon at midnight. What will you get? A book called Chime.
Franny Billingsley's debut young adult novel, Chime, was published in 2011 and is a National Book Award finalist full of fantasy, suspense, romance, drama, and mystery. After winning awards for her books aimed at younger audiences with Well Wished and The Folk Keeper, Franny spent over ten years getting this next, more mature novel just right. And if you ask us, her hard work totally paid off.
Chime is a story told by Briony Larkin, Swampsea resident, twin sister, seventeen-year-old beauty, daughter of a clergyman… and wicked witch. Her story centers around her struggle to care for her sister, keep the secret of her stepmother's death, and avoid being discovered as a witch and hanged. But when a handsome boy enters her life offering true friendship, well, everything changes.
Set in a swamp town near London the early 1900s, Briony's world is a tangled web of beauty and terror. Her struggles to balance life as a teenage witch amid tragedy after tragedy seem all the more difficult in a world before women's rights, electricity, and even running water. And while most teenagers enjoy a little drama to add excitement to their lives, Briony could probably do without worrying about her sister dying or being hanged herself in Hangman's square.
All fantasy and life-threatening suspense aside, Chime is first and foremost a well-written book. The characters are interesting, honest, and complex, and their relationships with each other are both heartwarming and complicated. Briony Larkin's story, at its heart, is about finding your identity and learning to love despite terrible odds—that it's dressed up with the trimmings of fantasy just makes it that much more exciting to read about.
Will wicked continue to prevail in Briony's life or will she save herself and those she loves? Be brave and read on—we dare you to fall under this book's spell.
Why Should I Care?
You've probably heard it all before: Teenagers are so dramatic, so moody, so bad—they should just be hanged for their wicked witch ways already. Okay, maybe not that last part. But seriously—being a teenager is tough. Unfortunately though, everyone has to wade through the swampy waters of heartache and drama that inevitably come with being a teen.
Chime is a book about these tricky teenage years, about feeling horrible and wrong and wicked and not being able to trust your own thoughts or feelings. This is a book about wanting to be free and strong enough to take on the world alone, while at the same time wanting to be loved, cared for, and protected from harm.
So while we may never have been accused of being wicked witches, most of us have done or said horrible or wicked things. And while we don't all fear our lives being taken by swamp horrors or angry villagers, it's pretty much guaranteed that we've all felt fearful or uncertain about our futures at some point or another.
Briony knows what it's like to look around at life and feel overwhelmed and scared; she knows what it's like to wonder about your own honesty, self worth, and identity. If you've ever felt alone amidst a Swampsea of troubles and tragedy, Briony feels your pain. And if you haven't, we're happy for you—really, we are—but that's just all the more reason to cheer for Briony's survival. Like the rest of us, she needs someone on her side—and if Briony can make it through the wicked swamp of life, so can we.