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The Academie, by Susanne Dunlap

14 Apr

2012, Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1-59990-568-8

Reviewed Advance Reader’s Copy

Plot Summary: Eliza Monroe, the daughter of future President James Monroe, is sent to finishing school in Paris by her mother. There, she meets Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte – Napoleon’s stepdaughter, and Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s youngest sister. The two young women dislike one another; Napoleon’s family feels he married beneath him when he married Josephine. Eliza falls in with both girls but ends up caught in the middle.

Told against the backdrop of Napoleon’s rise to power in France,The Academieis told from the points of view of Eliza, Caroline, Hortense, and a young woman, Madeleine, whose life intersects with the girls when she falls in love with Hortense’s brother Eugene, one of Napoleon’s officers.

Critical Evaluation: The story, written in first person from four different points of view, is a piece of historical fiction based on some historical accuracy. Eliza Monroe did attend finishing school in Paris at the same time as Hortense de Beauharnais and Caroline Bonaparte. Reading like Mean Girls set in post-revolutionary France, there is not a lot of plot to work with, and the characters are not terribly well-developed. The book seems to concentrate on the romantic relationships that all four young women are trying to cultivate, with the story of Napoleon’s rise thrown in just enough to provide historical background to the story.

Reviews: Kirkus Reviews: “This promising, frothy-but-fun scenario is overshadowed by a less-successful melodrama… Dunlap has clearly done her history homework, but characterization is sketchy and the noisy plot not always credible.”

Awards: Not applicable, not yet published.

Reader’s Annotation: A future First Daughter attends a posh French boarding school with Napoleon’s stepdaughter and sister.

Author Information: Susanne Dunlap writes historical YA fiction. Her website offers information about her other books, author information and availability for school visits, and a link to her blog.

Genre: Historical fiction. Subgenres: romance, friendship.

Booktalking Ideas: Have you ever played the mediator between two friends who couldn’t stand one another? How did you handle it if one tried to get the other in trouble?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues/Defense: None.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I enjoy historical fiction, and I thought the premise of the book, that a future U.S. President’s daughter attended a French boarding school with Napoleon’s stepdaughter and sister, woould make for an interesting read.

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