As soon as I read the synopsis for The Carnival at Bray (written by first time author Jessie Ann Foley), I immediately added it to my checkout pile at the library. This novel is set in 1993; I turned 14 that year, so I felt an immediate connection with the story.
Maggie is 16 years old when she moves to Ireland with her sister, mother, and new stepfather. She leaves her grandmother and beloved uncle Kevin behind in Chicago, trading the big city for a small town on the Irish coast. Life is very different in Bray, and while Maggie’s sister acclimates quickly, she finds it a little more difficult to adjust. When Uncle Kevin gives her two tickets to Nirvana’s concert in Rome, it seems like a ludicrous gift. The concert is several months away, but how is she supposed to get from Ireland to Rome?
But then things change, and Maggie becomes determined to make it to Rome, because it’s what Kevin wanted her to do. With the assistance of the cute boy next door, Maggie embarks on a grand and foolhardy journey to see one of the last concerts Nirvana would ever perform. The trip is magical, and the young couple cannot imagine the consequences of their impulsive decision to travel across Europe without telling anyone that they were going.
I would absolutely The Carnival at Bray. This is an amazing novel about growing up, and the slow realization that choices have consequences and that actions affect those around us in profound ways. As I mentioned, I was only slightly younger than Maggie in 1993, and this book brought back so many memories of being a teenager, trying to fit in, loving Nirvana, and ultimately, Kurt Cobain’s untimely death. The Carnival at Bray will appeal to many readers; it transcends the Young Adult category. Whether you were a teenager twenty years ago or are currently a teenager, this is a memorable book worth seeking out.