The Game of Hope

384p. Viking. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780425291016.
Gr 9 Up—In 1798, 15-year-old Hortense still suffers from nightmares of her father's beheading. After the Terror, French society flipped and so did Hortense's own life when her mother married Napoleon Bonaparte. Hortense enjoys school and her friends, and she secretly aspires to learn how to compose music. However, her mother and stepfather have other plans for her life. In this historical fiction, a relatable teenage girl from two centuries ago experiences similar trials as modern young adults. Hortense knows what it's like to feel mortified in front of a crush or have to deal with a bully in school (although different when said bully is her powerful stepfather's sister). Teachers looking for materials to support curriculum might appreciate this book about the aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleon's rise to power. It includes a foreword, afterword, and list of characters, among other notes, which help readers discern between fact and fiction. However, despite being based on real people, the characters often fall flat. The short sentences and paragraphs state feelings and events directly rather than immersing readers in the story.
VERDICT Useful for supplementing French history lessons, but a tougher sell for pleasure reading.

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