Sunday, 3 August 2014

Review + Q&A: The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabianco (Young Adult, 8.5/10E, semi short 'n' sweet review))

 July 2014, Gollancz, 320 pages, Ebook, Review copy 
Psst: the ebook is on a special price £1.99 until 7th August! Go get it now! 

Summary from Orion 
Rebecca, a 15-year-old American, isn't entirely happy with her life, comfortable though it is. Still, even she knows that she shouldn't talk to strangers. So when her mysterious neighbour Miss Hatfield asked her in for a chat and a drink, Rebecca wasn't entirely sure why she said yes. It was a decision that was to change everything. 

For Miss Hatfield is immortal. And now, thanks to a drop of water from the Fountain of Youth, Rebecca is as well. But this gift might be more of a curse, and it comes with a price. Rebecca is beginning to lose her personality, to take on the aspects of her neighbour. She is becoming the next Miss Hatfield.

But before the process goes too far, Rebecca must travel back in time to turn-of-the-century New York and steal a painting, a picture which might provide a clue to the whereabouts of the source of immortality. A clue which must remain hidden from the world. In order to retrieve the painting, Rebecca must infiltrate a wealthy household, learn more about the head of the family, and find an opportunity to escape. Before her journey is through, she will also have - rather reluctantly - fallen in love. But how can she stay with the boy she cares for, when she must return to her own time before her time-travelling has a fatal effect on her body? And would she rather stay and die in love, or leave and live alone?

And who is the mysterious stranger who shadows her from place to place? A hunter for the secret of immortality - or someone who has already found it?
Nayuleska's thoughts
I thought Miss Hatfield (6th one) was going to end up being really evil, a liar, and mess things up for the 7th Miss H right up until the end of the book. I'm not entirely sure where I got that idea from! Maybe I was expecting a major baddie to appear. There is quite a bit of character conflict, but no outright enemy. That, along with my other preconception that the 6th Miss H would appear lots to order the 7th Miss H around, die, or cause the younger one hassle were false. It didn't stop me from enjoying the book!
I loved the way that Cynthia, the 7th Miss H assimilated the role. It was a lot for a young teen to deal with, but it totally felt like she had the strength of character from the deceased Miss Hatfield's fill her with courage and a bit of risk taking. I obviously saw the romance that unfolded, and, as I had a habit of doing for this book presumed it would end happily for a while and then some major happened. Well, scratch out the happy ending part. I wasn't bothered as romance isn't what draws me into a book.

No, I adored all the different outfits the 7th Miss H wore, the luxuries she was showered with which didn't make her conceited-she realised the maids were just like her and refused to treat them as inferior. I ended up loving Nellie and Hannah so was rather glad she didn't go hopping through various times and got to stick around in the start of the 20th century. Maybe in the next book the 6th Miss H will reveal her evil side, or vanish-I'm certain something will happen, probably nothing that I've imagined though!

Find out more on Anna's website.

Suggested read
Another fun mystery read is Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

Question & Answer with Anna Caltabianco
It's with great pleasure that I'm hosting Anna on this Q&A about her book, The Seventh Miss Hatfield which I think everyone ought to read. 

Nayu 1) I'd somehow expected Miss Hatfield to make more of an appearance throughout the story to Cynthia-what were your reasons for having her appear infrequently and not suddenly disappear like the other Miss Hatfield? 
 Anna: As a teenager, I think it’s important to learn to make our own decisions and to live with the consequences of those decisions. We need to be given room to fail, and to pick ourselves back up. Similarly, Cynthia needed room to make her own decisions, even if that meant stumbling at times.

That being said, we also need a support structure, someone to turn to before we learn the ropes of being an adult. Miss Hatfield is Cynthia’s support structure.

Nayu 2) I promise I don't usually make so many assumptions about characters at the start of the story, but I was convinced right until the end that Miss Hatfield was evil and telling Cynthia a bunch of lies. What made you pick the time travel itself the enemy for Cynthia? At least that's how I perceived it. 
Anna: In our everyday lives, I think we often think of people as “evil” or “bad” when we don’t like them. It’s easy to reduce people to one--dimensional properties, when in reality, people seldom do things just to spite others; they have motives, like any other person. Miss Hatfield can seem tense, and in the beginning, doesn’t even tell Cynthia everything. It can be easy to assume that she’s the antagonist. Time travel, like other face--less troubles we encounter in our everyday lives, is unyielding and unsympathetic.

Nayu 3) It is extraordinary how strikingly accurate Cynthia's view of her previous self sees things as a dream, a bit separate from who she becomes, especially as that type of perspective tends to come as people get older. How did you find placing that distance for Cynthia-was it from personal experience or from witnessing others' experiences?
 Anna: I think it was a little bit of both. When I remember my younger self, whether its when I was five or me a year ago, it doesn’t feel quite like myself. I saw a similar thing when I saw my grandparents looking at old photos of themselves in their twenties. It wasn’t as if they were looking at a stranger, but someone they used to know. I think this distancing of your former self and your current self is just an inescapable part of growing older. We all have it. 

Nayu 4) Unlike a lot of readers I know, romance isn't a reason why I read books. I really enjoyed the fact that Cynthia didn't spend all her time swooning over Henley - is there a reason why the love was unrequited? Had you ever considered a temporary happily ever after for the duo, as there seemed to me hints Henley could have been suited to immortality?
 Anna: As a member of the teenage female population, I love reading a good romance. It’s not the main reason I read books, but if it’s an occasional thing, it can’t hurt. However, it does irk me when a female character is reduced to swooning over her love interest. As a girl, I’d like to think that we’re worth more than that, and can have our own identities outside of our relationships.

As for a temporary happily ever after for Henley and Cynthia, it did cross my mind more than a few times, but I also saw that the book needed to end the way it was supposed to end, rather than me forcing it to end a certain way.

Nayu 5) If you were the 8th Miss Hatfield, where would you most like to go? What were the reasons for sending Cynthia to the early 20th century? 
 Anna: That’s such a hard question! I think I’d love to go into the future…maybe 3014? I’m sure a lot would have changed, but don’t they say that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

The turn of the century seemed to me to be a really exciting time period. So much was happening in New York all at once. Old traditions were meeting new innovations. It was a period of head on collisions and wonderful confusion…much like the experience of adolescence is to most teenagers.

Thank you for stopping by Anna, I know I'm not alone in being eager for book 2!

No comments: