“You shouldn’t do what other people want you to do with your life. You should stick with your own dreams.”
I was fortunate to receive a digital ARC of Rachelle Delaney’s Clara Voyant via Net Galley, thanks to the lovely folks over at Penguin Random House Canada. When I saw the adorable cover and title, I knew I needed to pick this book up. The novel tells the story of sixth grader, Clara, as she tries to “prove her chops” and obtain an investigative piece for her school’s newspaper. To her dismay, she winds up running the paper’s horoscope column instead. Abhorring anything superstitious, you can imagine her reaction as students’ fortunes begin coming true and they coin her “Clara Voyant.” The novel details Clara’s journey to come to terms with people’s beliefs in the extraordinary and her struggle to prove her journalistic talents.
This story is a charming one, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – but I believe I would have loved it even more if I’d read it at a younger age. Such is my problem with most middle grade books, but I can appreciate their value all the same. Clara Voyant gives young readers a tough, career-focused female protagonist, and that’s something we all need to see more of in literature. On top of that, the plot itself is humorous and engaging. I never felt the urge to put this book down due to boredom, and there were a handful of moments that actually made me laugh out loud.
From serious, down-to-Earth Clara to her superstitious, potion-brewing mother, Gaby, the characters in this story are interesting and lovable. Even the supposedly terrifying custodian turns out to be a relatable figure, making these characters come to life within the pages. My one character complaint is that some of them – mostly the adults – feel like caricatures at times. For example, Gaby’s friends run a business communing with spirits (which is amazing). But reading from Clara’s perspective, they become almost cartoonish, and we never see any other side to them.
I also give Delaney props for not dumbing down the prose in her novel, something that often happens when books are geared toward a certain age range. The writing felt natural, smart, and witty enough for readers of all ages. As someone who has dipped her feet in journalism, I appreciated that she uses the proper terminology and clearly knows what she’s talking about. Young readers might just learn a thing or two about the field from Clara Voyant.
My only other complaint is that the school setting feels a bit older than it’s meant to. My college could hardly afford to keep up a journalism club printing multiple papers per month, much less my middle school. And Clara describes the artistic endeavors of her classmates, mentioning photographers and video makers. Does anyone remember having child protection locks on their AOL accounts in the sixth grade? Because I do. I could definitely see high school students doing some of the things mentioned in this novel, but I don’t know. Middle school seemed like a stretch to me.
I gave Clara Voyant a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. My reading experience was a pleasurable one, and I think this story has a lot to offer to young readers. This could be because I’m in my twenties, but I’m not sure the story will necessarily stick with me. But it could be a favorite for someone closer to Clara’s age, and that’s important. So I recommend this to younger kids, and I’d also recommend it to older readers looking for a lighthearted, entertaining read.
Clara Voyant will be available to purchase on May 15, 2018. You can pre-order the novel here if you’re interested.