Sunday, October 21, 2012
A Great Teen Read: Jepp Who Defied the Stars
Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, by Katherine Marsh builds a captivating world around readers. Using historical detail from the courts of Infanta and the odd astronomer, Tycho Brahe, Marsh follows a character faced with adversity in this world: a court dwarf named Jepp. Jepp is based on a real figure in history. But while historical texts only dedicated a footnote to Jepp, Marsh has created an entire story for him.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who knows nothing of the history of dwarves during this period. Dwarves were treated as the playthings of royalty in varying degrees of humiliation. Jepp is the story of a boy coming of age through all this adversity, learning a sense of himself, while being forced to hide in pies and eat scraps under the table. It's odd thinking that anyone could discover their true potential while being forced to share a cell with a beer-drinking moose. But Jepp perseveres through court dwarf costumes and being held captive in the palace. Teens who have faced adversity will find a kindred spirit in Jepp, who weathers storms with a clear sense of hope for the future.
But Jepp's character wasn't the only thing that I throughly enjoyed in this elaborate tale. From the first few pages, I felt drawn into the story by all the rich textural details. From the gold brocade and silks of the palace to the boisterous cries of travelers in Jepp's mother's inn, Marsh paints a rich tapestry for the setting. It's clear that she did a lot of extensive research into the period to make the setting come alive. It further pulled me into Jepp's story, experiencing his tale with him. From table scraps to the foul breath of a beer drinking moose, all the details anchor the reader securely into the story.
I'll admit this is a far cry from the usual Teen Hot Reads, it's not Hunger Games or Twilight. But readers that give Jepp a chance won't be disappointed. Jepp is a character who wrestles with the stars, who dares to defy fate and in turn, is rewarded with than society believes he deserves.