As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

May 6, 2011

CHIME by Franny Billingsley, 2011

ChimeBefore Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment. (Amazon)

Review by Jen White

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
 And the mome raths outgrabe.
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

While reading Chime by Franny Billingsley, the words from the poem “Jabberwocky” rattled in my ear.  After I finished the book, I concluded that if Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll had a love child, it would be Chime by Franny Billingsley.

A few years back I had the opportunity to hear Billingsley speak at the L.A. SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference, and I must say she was fascinating.  At the time, she had under her belt Well-Wished and The Folk Keeper, (which are also very good reads) but she readily admitted that it took her years and years to write a book.  Each book was like a little jewel, painstakingly crafted and revised over and over again. After reading Chime, I could see why Billingsley took such time to create her books.  To me, it felt almost perfect.  Here is why:
Voice:  Briony arrests the reader from the beginning with a flash forward, “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged.” (Kindle location 46) Immediately we notice she’s an unreliable narrator, which adds to the mystery of the story. Can we trust Briony to tell the reader the truth?  After all, this is a story about the ‘wickedest girl who has no true beginning’.  Briony’s voice is haunting yet defiant; smart but sarcastic.  She is a perfect blend of YA contemporary voice dropped in on a historical/paranormal novel.

Language:  Each sentence feels like a perfect little jewel. Billingsley uses nonsensical words which make perfect sense in context.  Through her language the Swampsea sneaks up slowly like an unwelcome visitor breathing its stinky breath into the readers face.  Briony longs to push the Swamp away, but then returns panting for it in moments of weakness.  In the Swamp, “The moonlight slipped and shifted beneath my feet; my legs dissolved into mud.  The swamp has no beginning, it has no end, it’s all fringes and wisps and foreverness.  I was porous.  I had my own fringes-my ten fingers, my fringe of mucky toes.”  (location 2943)  She says,   “My frock of moonbeams purred against my legs.  The earth quivered as I ran, I quivered as I ran, as I ran on spider legs of moonlight, in an ecstasy of fear, in a fear of ecstasy.”  (location 2943)  The language?  Just beautiful.

Setting:  Because the language in this book is so evocative, the setting—the Swampsea— becomes a larger than life character.   A bog, an impending railroad bearing down on an archaic religious village—part old world, part cultdrips in drama.  Would I call this book Steam Punk?  Maybe.  Fantasy?  Perhaps.  But it almost feels like a new genre.  Call it YA Para-historpunk fantasorical.  In this book witches are real, as well as the Horrors (the Dead Hand, The Wykes, Mucky Face, and the one who rules it all—the Boggy Mun).  These creatures, and more, thrive in the mud and muck surrounding the Swapsea, creating a setting that feels both familiar and shiny new.

If you love a book that weaves together mystery and romance, and keeps you reading late into the night, read Chime.  I found myself asking mountains of questions and when it came time for answers, Billingsley delivered.  In essence, Chime is just so juicy.  So dig right in and don’t forget your napkin.

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: mild
Violence: mild/moderate, after all someone does hang
Mature Themes: hmmm...not really, just love, desire, jealousy and murder

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Franny Billingsley


Amy Finnegan {} said...

I'm so excited to read this book, I can hardly stand the wait. I ordered it weeks ago, and it's just been staring me down while I finish another book!

I've heard nothing but raves about CHIME! Thanks so much for your great review, Jen!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, this sounds FANTASTIC!!!!!! Awesome review, Jen! Thank you for a great book recommendation, too! :)

Char said...

The book is so juicy that I'll need a napkin? How can I resist? Great review Jen. I hope I enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed your review.

pie said...

Thanks for the review! I just checked this out of the library.

adrienne said...

So I will be putting this on hold at the library today!!! I have never even heard of this book until I read your review, it sounds fabulous! It's been a while since I've read something that has kept me up late into the night....great review!

pie said...

I just had to come back and say that I LOVED this book. Thanks, Jen!

Cece Girl said...

Pie, I'm so glad you loved it! Thanks for stopping by and letting me know. :)

ilima said...

Fantastic book review. I'm anxious to read this one. The language sounds so fun! Thanks, Jen.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I just finished this book!!! Thank you for this awesome recommendation.