Review: Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Carnival at Bray was a beautifully nostalgic story about a girl finding herself through all the best art of the 90s, and across the Atlantic Ocean at that. Rating: 4/5

*This is book #9/30 for my 2016 book challenge. You can take a look at the reading challenge here.

Carnival At Bray by Jessie Ann Foley book cover

I’d like to first take a second to thank Carina and the Goodreads group Rated YA-MA for hosting Carnival at Bray as a traveling book. I really loved seeing everyone’s comments in the margins, and I can’t wait to pass the book off to other members!

It’s 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she’ll ever find her place in this new world. When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life- altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish. Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all, live.

I am a bookish disappointment. It took me almost 7 months to finish this book, but not because I wasn’t interested. The book was really wonderful, and I loved the way in which it flowed. As someone who loves music, I really related to the main character. It all felt very real. While I was younger than Maggie was during the 90s, I still remember the tail-end of how that decade was, and I remember how different the culture was then. The way these characters acted and reacted was genuine, and their conversations were sincere. These are the kinds of relationships I think we’ve all experienced or witnessed throughout our lifetimes, and Jessie Ann Foley did a great job at creating characters that you would love one moment and be pissed at the next.

There were some complaints that there was insta-love in this novel, but I disagree completely. She did have a crush, sure, but I feel as though they started to share very personal details of their lives with each other very quickly and that is why it was so easy for them to decide they were in love. Time also went by quickly in this book, and I don’t think it is so farfetched for two 16-year-olds to fall in love when they’re making grand gestures for each other and connecting on deep levels about things like sick mothers and dead uncles. They weren’t being shallow or vapid, and I very much enjoyed their relationship.

Foley also did a beautiful job with her description of the Irish countryside. I could really picture myself in every scene, and I felt wanderlust for these places that I’ve never even seen photos of. There’s something really quaint about Bray, and all of the little nooks and crannies that make up Maggie Lynch’s life, and I am glad to have been part of her world for the last 8 months.

Rating4 star book review

If you’re interested in reading my GoodReads updates from this book you can do so here. I must say, they’re quite entertaining. It will tell you exactly what I was thinking on certain pages.

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