The Golden Day
By Ursula Dubosarsky
Published 2013 by Candlewick Press
It seems a fairly normal day at first. But when a strange field trip ends with the disappearance of their teacher, the day turns out to be anything but for eleven young schoolgirls.
I know that's a really short summary, but I think it says pretty much everything you need to know about the book. I stumbled across this one on NetGalley and downloaded it on a whim. I'd heard nothing about it but thought it sounded interesting. When I was about halfway through reading, I noticed it had popped up over at Someday My Printz Will Come (which has started up again, yay!) as a dark-horse contender. I hurried to finish the book, in case it comes up in discussion.
I guess my first thought about this book is the age-old question: is this YA? The schoolgirls are young - I don't think their ages are ever given, but maybe middle school age - which seems to have led many reviewers to wonder why this wasn't published as a middle-grade title. While I don't think there's any content that would stop me from recommending this to readers, I actually don't think I'd classify this as middle-grade either. To me, this felt like an adult novel, centered around young characters. I'm not sure I can pinpoint precisely why I felt this way - as I said, the content doesn't read older and I don't think there is anything terribly sophisticated about the plot necessarily. I suppose, in my opinion, the writing is what makes me want to classify this as an adult novel. The writing is quite nice - this is a short but effective novel, where every word and sentence seems to pack a punch. Dubosarsky manages to be both concise and lush with her prose and it works very well in this novel. I'll be interested to see if this does come up in award discussion how other people address this question.
Aside from the question of audience and the strength of the writing, this is a rather quiet story. Yes, there is a mystery - what happened to Miss Renshaw? However, the mystery never seems all that pressing - that is, I never felt a fierce desire to learn the truth. The mystery seems to take a backseat to the simple story of the girls and what Miss Renshaw's disappearance will mean in their lives. Readers are told most particularly about two girls, Cubby and Icara, though I found myself quite curious about the other girls. I think the power of the plot here is the questions it raises in readers - how would you have acted in this situation? Though the mystery of Miss Renshaw is solved (more or less), I think this is a book that would stand up well to rereading, if for nothing other than the lovely writing and the details that I imagine would emerge on a second time through.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.