Monday, July 4, 2011

Wrapped Book Review

Author: Jennifer Bradbury. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781416990079.
Annotation:  Seventeen-year-old Agnes Wilkins is about to make her debut in 1815 London, but would rather spend her time studying languages and ready the works of Jane Austen than pick out fabric and ribbons. When she inadvertently becomes involved in a plot by Napoleon to steal a mystical Egyptian relic, however, Agnes gets the adventure she’s been looking for!  
Personal thoughts:  This was a fun book, and I especially loved all the Jane Austen references! Jennifer Bradbury does a good job of combining the adventure elements with Regency society, and throws in some Napoleon too. Overall, a fun story that can be enjoyed by Jane Austen fans of all ages!
Plot summary: In 1815 London, seventeen-year-old Agnes Wilkins is about to make her debut into society in hopes of making a good match. Agnes, however, would rather spend her time studying languages and reading books by her favorite author, A Lady (actually Jane Austen), than fret over her debut gown like her mother. To make matters worse, Agnes has attracted the attentions of a very rich suitor, Lord Showalter, who seems intent on marrying her. One night at a party held by Showalter, Agnes and the other guests are invited to partake in the unwrapping of a mummy in hopes of finding treasures and trinkets to take home. Agnes does find a trinket, a small item in the shape of a dog’s head. Intrigued by the item, Agnes decides to keep it even when Lord Showalter suddenly announces that the mummy in question is not the correct specimen and all of the trinkets must be returned. After the party, however, inexplicable things start occurring and Agnes’ social circle begins to believe that a mummy’s curse has been wrought upon their group. Agnes isn’t convinced, and begins to believe that the strange things that have been happening are actually part of a plot by Napoleon to infiltrate London. Agnes is determined to thwart the plot and, together with the handsome Caedmon who she meets at the British Museum, pushes the concerns about her debut aside to find out the truth of the “mummy’s curse.”
Review:  Chock full of Jane Austen references, this fun historical mystery is a must read for any fans of the Regency time period. Bradbury does an excellent job of integrating the adventure aspects of the story with the more Austen-like plotline of Agnes’ impending engagement to Lord Showalter. Agnes is a very likable protagonist and Bradbury makes a point to highlight the fact that her leading lady is not only beautiful but brave and intelligent. Through Agnes, Bradbury also comments on the life of women during this time period as well, and how society was far from equitable. The inclusion of Napoleon and his antics are a good introduction for younger readers who might not be familiar with all of the intrigue surrounding the controversial Emperor. Serving both as a history lesson, homage to Jane Austen, and fun mystery, Wrapped is an excellent choice for both teen and adult readers.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman, works by Jane Austen.
Themes:  Regency time period, mystery, Jane Austen, women in society.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.  
Series Information: No sequels announced, but definitely left open for one.  

Discussion Questions:

- How do you think the works of Jane Austen influenced this novel?

- What was your first impression of Lord Showalter? How did that change while reading the novel?

- Did you learn anything about Napoleon while reading this novel? Did you want to learn more about his history?

- Do you think Agnes fits in with the typical role of women during the time period in which this novel takes place? Why or why not?

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