Sisters of Glass
By Stephanie Hemphill
Expected publication March 27, 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Maria is the youngest daughter in a traditional family of glass-blowers on the Venetian island of Murano. She would love to spend her days in the fornica, learning how to craft the beautiful glass her family produces. But her father's will has made that impossible. For his dying wish is that Maria marry a nobleman. Giovanna, Maria's older sister, resents her for this. And when a young glassblower arrives to help the family with their fornica, how will Maria's new feelings change the course of her destiny?
Total sucker for verse novels - I fully admit it. So obviously, I was thrilled to score a copy of this at Midwinter, though I admit I was surprised by its short length (Hemphill has written another verse novel about the Salem Witch Trials, which I haven't yet read, that is the length of a typical young adult novel). Regardless, I dove into this tale with high hopes - verse novel, historical fiction, right up my alley. Though this is a short novel, it is not necessarily the quickest read - there is much to linger over in these verses. The descriptions of Murano and its traditional craft are very evocative - I've actually been there and Hemphill's words struck me as accurate (though I wasn't there during the Renaissance). Hemphill's writing is quality - she has a nice turn of phrase and quite lovely descriptions. But Maria is not a character I really wanted to root for - I found her to be kind of whiny and bratty. To me, she seemed to spend a lot of time trying to undo her sister's anger when she probably should have been coming up with a better idea. After all, it is not really her that Vanna is mad at. The romances here are very typical, instantaneous true love but that doesn't make them bad - I liked Maria and Luca's fiery relationship. I don't know, however, if this was an entirely successful verse novel - the poems didn't strike me as they have in other works. So, overall, this was a bit of a disappointment for me with poems that didn't really feel like poems and a main character I didn't want to cheer for.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.