Book Review: Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Maria and Giovanna are sisters in a prestigious family on the island of Murano, famed for its Venetian glassmakers.  Although Maria would very much like to be a glassblower, her only duty is to marry into the nobility–her father’s dying wish.  Although her older sister Giovanna should rightfully have that role, the girls’ mother begins priming Maria for such a marriage.  When a young glassblower enters the picture, things get even more complicated.

Hemphill is a Printz-winning poet, and it’s clear why: her prose is beautiful, often lyrical, and pitch-perfect.  A fast-paced novel featuring two strong female characters is certain to resonate with many readers looking for a historical romance set against a fairly detailed background.  Unfortunately, this verse-novel suffers from the fact that the format is not the best way to tell the story, and the verse-novel is likely to turn some readers off.

Both Giovanna and Maria are characters with strong wills.  They both have a clear sense of what they want, but their circumstances prevent them from being able to obtain it.  As with some other verse novels, there’s a certain amount of character development sacrificed in order to make the format work, and this was frustrating.  However, Maria’s romance with the young glassblower propels much of the story in the second half, and their attraction is often as hot as the molten glass he works with.

The historical details about Venetian glassblowing and the time period will work for some readers.  Others will appreciate the decidedly modern theme of independence that Hemphill allows her story to convey.  A fast-paced, page-turner of a novel, the book’s a short, quick read, and will especially appeal to younger teens.

Sisters of Glass is out now.

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill. Knopf Books for Young Readers: 2012.  Electronic galley accepted for review via NetGalley.

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