The Explosionist – Jenny Davidson

The ExplosionistTitle: The Explosionist
Author: Jenny Davidson

ISBN: 9780061239755
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 453
Price: $17.99

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Interest Age: 13 and up
Lexile Score: 1010

Annotation: Set in the background of a different WWII, a bomb, a message from the beyond, and a murder draws Sophie into a mystery that takes her deep into government dealings and family secrets.

Plot Summary: Napoleon won Waterloo and that changed history. Jenny Davidson’s novel starts off in turmoilous 1930s Scotland. Fifteen year old Sophie is in school when a bomb goes off nearby nearing killing her and her teacher. Then, a medium who brought Sophie a message from a spirit beyond is found with her throat slashed. Drawn into the mystery of the bombs and the murder, Sophie and her friend, Mikael, must navigate politics, spiritualism, ethics and Sophie’s crush on her chemistry teacher.

Critical Evaluation: A wonderfully crafted alternative historical tale. Davidson gives readers a glimpse of how one change in history can effect the world. While starting the story, the world which Sophie lives in is unfamiliar to us and Davidson slowly builds the setting and the details craft this strange world that is both bizarre, but at the same time intriguing. Reading about spirits and spiritualism was fascinating especially since science also is prevalent in the story. A nice exploration of science and faith. The characters are unique – there’s Sophie’s great-aunt who objects to a project she started years ago but not enough to end the program, her friend Mikael from Sweden who might or might not be a love interest and her chemistry teacher, Mr. Petersen, who’s not all that he seems. It’s not only just a great story but raises questions about moral ethics and the role of government. Suspenseful, fun and overall a great story with an open ending for the sequel. For readers interested in alternative history, politics, or mysteries.

Author Bio: Jenny Davidson is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She has published articles in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture and Studies in Romanticism. She is the author of a novel, Heredity (2003). (via Ingram)

Tie to Curriculum Units: Political Government, Ethics

Booktalking Ideas: Alternative history, mystery, spiritualism mixed with science

Challenge Issues: To a challenger, I would say that VOYA gives this a strong review stating: “The characters come through as very human and quite believable. The book is well written and well crafted. The weaving and subtle twisting of historical characters and events is done with great skill. Students liking mysteries and alternative histories will quickly read this one cover to cover.” Author Jo Walton also praises Davidson’s her dynamic twists on history. Additionally, I would state that Davidson’s exploration of science and faith is a very relevant topic in today’s world.

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