May 272011

A Marvelous Biography for Young Adult Readers

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Amazon Vine

With teen novels such as Prom and Prejudice, Scones and Sensibility, and I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend, it would seem that Jane Austen has recently become more popular in the Young Adult genre. The authors of these aforementioned novels often state that their intention for writing these types of novels is to hopefully inspire many young readers to crack open the spine of their first Jane Austen novel and discover the brilliance of her writing for themselves. (Yes! I dearly hope this happens!) But what if these young readers, after enjoying their first Austen novel, wanted to learn more about the famous spinster author? Are there any Jane Austen biographies geared towards teens?

Thanks to Catherine Reef, one has just been released! Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is an educational and accessible biography of Jane Austen’s life and works. Encompassing Jane Austen’s childhood, family, writing, and success – Ms. Reef’s biography is thorough yet compact. Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is divided into nine chapters, includes over fifty images, and is around one hundred and eighty pages in length. I enjoyed the distinct division of chapters and the inclusion of photographs, Regency illustrations, cartoons, and movie stills. I’m sure these visuals that appear on almost every other page will enhance many young readers’ interest in this biography. In addition, as someone who has read a few Jane Austen biographies, I appreciated Ms. Reef’s accuracy and extensive research.

What makes this biography so approachable to teens is the author’s language and style of writing. Her sentences are simple and the vocabulary she uses is age appropriate. Furthermore, knowing that many of the customs and rules of etiquette for early nineteenth century culture may be unfamiliar to young readers, Ms. Reef consistently took pains to add edifying explanations and definitions. I applaud Ms. Reef for so aptly realizing that some practices, such as marriage between first cousins, need extra clarification!

In the last five chapters, along with providing an accurate account of Jane Austen’s life, Ms. Reef includes lengthy summaries of the six major novels of Jane Austen. While I think it was an excellent idea to include summaries of Jane Austen’s novels, I didn’t really like how the summaries divulged too many of the plot events and conclusion for each story. For readers who never read all six novels, these summaries might be spoiling the ending for them. In addition, readers who are already familiar with all six novels, might find the multi-page summaries unnecessary. I would have preferred for the summaries to be a little bit shorter and not so detailed.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is perfect for young readers who are interested in Jane Austen, currently reading Jane Austen’s novels, or doing a paper about Jane Austen for school! I would not hesitate in the slightest to recommend it to any young adult reader! (P.S. Adult readers looking for a basic and brief biography of Jane Austen can enjoy this one too!)


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  One Response to “Jane Austen: A Life Revealed – Catherine Reef”


    Sounds like one I would read too!!

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