Tuesday, April 28, 2015

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle is a YA book from the time before there really were YA books.

When Philippa's father leaves her at a Swiss boarding school, she feels a bit as if her life is over. Philippa, or Flip, as she likes to be called, is an introverted, artistic girl, fiercely devoted to her father and still mourning the fairly recent death of her mother. Boarding school, with its points and sports and complete lack of privacy, is a nightmare for her -- and since she spends her time feeling sulky and sorry for herself, she doesn't make friends among her fellow students, who take to calling her "Pill." Flip befriends the art teacher, a woman who is sympathetic to Flip but also not afraid to call her out on her self-pitying behavior. But apart from art classes, Flip's only recourse is to escape the school on free afternoons -- and it's during those free times that she meets Paul, a boy of her own age, who lives in a nearby chateau. Paul has seen his own share of tragedy, and the two teens bond over their similar experiences and dispositions. But Paul also has a mysterious past, one that even he doesn't fully understand. Will Flip and Paul's friendship help both teens to blossom?

This was a favorite of mine from my early teen years. I actually liked it better than a lot of Madeleine L'Engle's more well-known works, possibly because it's a simpler, more straightforward story, but more likely because I saw myself in Flip's introversion and social awkwardness. Now, encountering it as an adult, it remains a gentle, enjoyable read. Flip and Paul both undergo some painful, realistic character development, and the alpine setting is as lovely as I recall from those first times reading it. The romance angle is very slight, compared to what you see in more recent young adult literature, making this book perfect for young or conservative teens.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

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