Title: Angel on the Square
Series: Angel on the Square (#1 in series)
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
Overview: Well, that was better than I remembered. I first read this book as an 8-year-old, and at the time, it was a bit over my head. I cared more for adventures and happy endings and wasn’t much interested in real-world stories that illustrate the bleakness of life. But coming back to it years later, I can appreciate the honest portrayal of hardships, and this time I was able to pick up on the theme of hope that runs through the story. Maybe it’s a happy ending, after all.
Characters: Katya is the only POV character, having a first-person narration. She’s a good character, having her flaws but not being the annoying heroine so common in books. She takes us on a journey from naïveté to acceptance of reality, growing well throughout the story.
Content: Whelan does a great job of presenting the bleakness of WWI Russia while not going into too much detail. A reader in the target age range wouldn’t pick up on some of the harsher aspects of what’s going on in the background. It’s only if you know the full story that you can realize how dark this all is. Rasputin the creepy monk shows up several times. It’s mentioned that he has “sweethearts” all across Russia, and in one scene, Katya finds him forcing an embrace on a maid.
Writing: The writing is lovely, excellently portraying the world and Katya’s character. Whelan whisks her readers back to the last days of the tsars, setting the stage well with her descriptions of Russia’s cities and countrysides. The sprinkling of several Russian words into the narrative was an especially nice touch.
Summary: I’m glad I gave this book another shot. It’s an excellent way to introduce young readers to this tragic portion of Russia’s history, though a read-aloud might be more appropriate for readers under 10, so explanations could be given as needed. I recommend this sobering yet inspiring read!