Middle Grade Review: The Robber Girl (Franny Billingsley)
About This Book:
Part literary mystery, part magical tour de force—an incantatory novel of fierce beauty, lyricism, and originality from a National Book Award Finalist
A brilliant puzzle of a book from the author of Chime and The Folk Keeper plunges us into the vulnerable psyche of one of the most memorable unreliable narrators to grace the page in decades. The Robber Girl has a good dagger. Its voice in her head is as sharp as its two edges that taper down to a point. Today, the Robber Girl and her dagger will ride with Gentleman Jack into the Indigo Heart to claim the gold that’s rightfully his. But instead of gold, the Robber Girl finds a dollhouse cottage with doorknobs the size of apple seeds. She finds two dolls who give her three tasks, even though she knows that three is too many tasks. The right number of tasks is two, like Grandmother gave to Gentleman Jack: Fetch unto me the mountain’s gold, to build our city fair. Fetch unto me the wingless bird, and I shall make you my heir. The Robber Girl finds what might be a home, but to fight is easier than to trust when you’re a mystery even to yourself and you’re torn between loyalty and love. The Robber Girl is at once achingly real—wise to the nuances of trauma—and loaded with magic, action, and intrigue. Every sentence shines, sharp as a blade, in a beautifully crafted novel about memory, identity, and the power of language to heal and reconstruct our lives.
*Review Contributed by Samantha Randolph, Staff Reviewer*
3 reasons to read ROBBER GIRL:
1.) Representation of trauma: Starling is only 10 or 11, but she’s lived through a lot. When the story starts, we only know that she’s been with Gentleman Jack for a few years after supposedly being abandoned on the highway. As the story continues, we get building details that suggest things are perhaps not what Starling believes (or forces herself to believe) and that Gentleman Jack has conditioned her to trust a specific narrative. When Starling begins to feel like the Judge’s family and the cottage might be home, it’s easy to understand why she resists or acts out. The representation of trauma is exceptional and realistic.
2.) Strong voice: Starling’s narration can be a little jarring as she goes in and out of her trauma responses, but Franny Billingsley pulls it off. The sentences are crisp and sharp, and I especially like the way the dagger’s voice is integrated.
3.) Unique world: Starling’s world is mostly recognizable, but there is an added mythology about a Seventh Sister Star and Blue Roses that creates a level of uniqueness. I loved all the details around the Seventh Sister and how the town had special festivals and traditions around it.
Franny Billingsley’s THE ROBBERT GIRL takes a frank, head-on look at trauma in a young girl and weaves a story of finding a home and growing with love.
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