When Canadian teenager Jane Grey is asked to choose a subject for her history assignment on the Tudors, she picks her namesake: Lady Jane Grey, the 15-year-old who reluctantly ruled England for nine days, before being executed. Among her research books, Jane finds a tiny Booke of Prayre that pulls her back in time to 1553, where Lady Jane is imprisoned in the Tower of London. The two lonely girls become unlikely friends.
Jane feels adrift in her own time. Since the death of her father years before, her mother has sunk deeper into alcoholism, and Jane, at a loss of how to explain her mother’s increasingly erratic behavior to her friends, quietly hides it. High school is also pulling her childhood friends away from her, making her wonder whom she can trust. She finds herself traveling back in time more often, where the problems of the ill-fated Lady Jane overshadow her own. Rescuing a 16th-century girl sounds easy compared to navigating high school and an unstable home life. But, as the date of Lady Jane’s execution looms, Jane wonders what she’s equipped to solve.
Some time-slip novels can feel more like character-wields-modern-knowledge-to-save-doomed-world, but MacLeod uses the device more subtly. Hers is a story of two teenagers, uncertain in their own lives, who find comfort and strength in one another. The fact that they come from different times heightens this, allowing for both to recognize the universality of the human condition. This is a YA novel, with all of the high school problems of boys and changing friendships, but MacLeod doesn’t shy away from deeper topics, like loss, alcoholism, and their effects on a family.
Namesake is a book of time-travel and the lengths one girl took to save her namesake’s life. Jane Grey has to do a report on a historical figure for her history class. Of course, she picks her namesake, Lady Jane Grey. One day, Lady Jane’s prayer book falls into Jane’s hands. When it does, Jane travels through time and into Lady Jane Grey’s era. Jane is determined to help her lady escape from the Tower and redeem her rightful throne.
In Jane’s present time, she has a lot of problems with society. Her mom has three modes: Single Mother as Hero, where she’s nice, hasn’t been drunk, and isn’t in a bad mood; the Nothing Mode, where they don’t usually pay much attention to each other; and days when Hell Broke Loose, when she is drunk or mad. Jane doesn’t know what mode she’ll be talking to or how she should communicate with her mother. She goes back a lot and even skips school one day because she’s determined to help Lady Jane survive. She fears that they will both share a doomed fate.
I think Namesake is a phenomenal book. I think so because I like books about adventure and Namesake is one of those books. It’s well-written. There are a lot of describing words and that’s what makes a story interesting. There were some times where it wasn’t clear on who the narrator was and who the narrator was referring to, but overall it was a great book.
Ellen Brockmole, age 10