Brilliant Debut Teen Novel In The Carnival At Bray!

The Carnival at BrayMaggie Lynch is not only the new girl in her high school, she is in a new country.  Her mother falls in and out of relationships with great frequency and takes Maggie and her sister, Ronnie, along for the ride.  This time she marries a man from Ireland and moves the family there.  Maggie misses her Uncle Kevin most of all.  He is a troubled musician from the Chicago scene.  The story takes place in 1993 and early 1994.  Kurt Cobain is still alive and his musical influence is everywhere.  Maggie has trouble finding friends in her new school.  She feels like she is messing up at every turn.  Then she meets Eoin who works at his aunt’s pub.  Eoin is one of those fantastic teen boy characters that young girl readers will fall in love with.  He reminds me of Gus in The Fault In Our Stars and Park in Eleanor and Park.  She falls hard for him.  When Uncle Kevin comes to Ireland for a visit, Maggie’s world starts to unravel.  This is a first novel for Jessie Ann Foley.  She is a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Novel Award.  I loved this book!  It is going on my list of favorite teen reads of all time.  The setting came alive and the characters were beautifully developed and described.  Many teen readers will relate to Maggie’s problems with friends, love and how losing a person you love can shake you to your core.  Also how a parent’s choices can make a stable life a challenge for a young person.  Like Rainbow Rowell and John Green, Foley is brilliant at capturing the feeling of what it is like to fall in love so completely.

Ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Maggie’s relationship with her uncle.  Discuss how Kevin influenced her life and how that changed in the course of the story.

Discuss how the Smashing Pumpkins show changed her life.

Talk about music and artists that are meaningful to you. Do you have a favorite artist, group or album?

Talk about how Aine changes once she falls in love.  How does her friendship with Maggie change?

Why do you think Maggie did what she did with Paul.  Was it worth ruining her friendship?

Discuss how it is different to be a teen in Ireland than in America.

Have you ever been to a concert?  What was your experience like?  What artists would you like to see live?

Discuss how Maggie’s mother changed.  Why do you think her relationship changed with Colm?

Talk about when Eoin said to Maggie about being the person who would not hurt her.

How does Eoin compare with Paul?  How does he compare with other teen boy characters in books you like?

Discuss Maggie’s relationship with Dan Sean.  Is there anyone in your life like that?

Discuss this passage, “But then, she thought, looking up at the tiled ceiling to stop herself from crying, wasn’t that what growing up meant? Wasn’t it just a succession of actions and incidents where you break your childhood promises to yourself and do the very things you always said you wouldn’t do? And how many more promises would she have to break before she came out on the other side?”

Discuss when Maggie says this about her mom, “Why can’t mom be discreet about anything?  Why is it that everything she feels, she has to make everybody else feel it too?”





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