The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
Published by Ember on May 14, 2013 (originally published June 14, 2011)
Genre(s): fiction, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal, young adult
Format & Length: paperback, 352
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When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn’t belong in, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching position at the Cherokee Female Seminary.
Nothing prepares her for what she finds. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite–educated and more wealthy than she–and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie’s room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.
Willie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn’t sure anymore. She’s also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys’ school who has taken an interest in her–and whose past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even Willie has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something. . . .
The Revenant is a historical fiction coming of age story peppered with mysterious and ghostly events.
This story follows Willie, who has assumes the name of her former classmate to become a teacher in Indian Territory to escape returning to the home she hates. When she arrives at the school, she discovers that one of the students died the previous year and strange occurrences have been happening. This main plot line was intriguing and unfolded at an even pace, but there is also a romantic subplot that didn’t quite match up to it. That being said, the story moved along quickly and was easy to read.
Some of the characters in this book were more fleshed out than others, and many fell a bit flat. But the way the author used them to explore the social structures in that place and time was nicely done. However, the strongest aspect of The Revenant is the setting. The boarding school and its surroundings were described clearly and were easy to visualize. Which makes sense given the author’s note at the end explaining all of Gensler’s research and how she tried to remain true to the history of the setting.
In the end, I liked The Revenant. But I can’t help but think that if I’d come across it when I was a teenager, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more.