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A book by Elizabeth Hand

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Haunting and gorgeous

  • Jun 16, 2010
Madeleine and Rogan Tierney are first cousins and descendants of the great stage actress Madeleine Armin Tierney. They live with their many relatives at Arden Terrace, a gated community with large, rambling houses in Yonkers, and as the youngest cousins they are the closest--so close that they share a connection no one else could ever comprehend, and ultimately fall in love. Encouraged by their glamorous Aunt Kate to pursue their legacy in theater, the two participate in their school's production of Twelfth Night, which causes all sorts of feelings and emotions to swell, and forces Madeleine and Rogan to face the uncertainty of their future together.

Illyria's setting is rich and lush, from the depictions of how Madeleine and Rogan spent their childhoods to the details in the sprawling, decaying homes that their families inhabit. Hand's writing is indeed intense, and the relationship she builds between the cousins is full of tension and passion, especially when they share private moments in the attic of Rogan's house, watching the tiny, magical toy theater they found. It is evident through their roles in Twelfth Night that both Madeleine and Rogan possess talent for the stage, but while one of them wastes it, the other embraces it, cleaving the two and showing them each very different futures. Though more practical-minded readers may have a hard time grasping the point of this short novel, Hand's writing is beautiful and her imagery vivid. Like any great tragedy, Illyria is haunting and gorgeous.

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Tirzah Price ()
Ranked #276
I have a blog called The Compulsive Reader on which I review Young Adult novels, interview authors, post book trailers, and hold contests. I'm interested in anything YA book related!
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*Starred Review* Growing up in 1970s Yonkers, Maddy and Rogan were called the “kissing cousins” of the Tierney clan. In a secret attic space, they find a toy theater, complete with lighting and stage effects that appear like magic, but no actors or audience. As their discovery stirs within them the desire to create, Aunt Kate, mysterious and unnaturally beautiful, brings their abilities to a boil. Determined to restore the family's long-abandoned theatrical heritage, Kate pushes Maddy and Rogan to nurture their gifts in the school's production of Twelfth Night. However, Rogan's wild nature is ever at odds with his haunting, melodious singing voice, and Maddy's glamour, no doubt the gift of their great-grandmother, an ingénue of the stage, shines dimly in the brilliance of Rogan's fey charms. Winner of the World Fantasy Award, Hand's slim novella is sublime and daring; she makes no mystery about the nature of the 15-year-old cousins' relationship. It's as sweet, sexual, obsessive, and devastating as any other first love. YA readers are entrusted with a narrative of burgeoning and squandered talent, unapologetic incest, familial decline on par with that of Faulkner's Compson family, and a hard-won ending that's, at best, tenuously hopeful. The subtlety and raw ache of the prose, and the realistic portrayal of artistic lives, triumphantly heralds Hand's arrival into youth fiction. Grades 10-12. --Courtney Jones
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ISBN-10: 0670012122
ISBN-13: 978-0670012121
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
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"Haunting and gorgeous"
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