My second YA novel The Unleaving is forthcoming from Feiwel & Friends in March of 2019. Here is a description…
Maggie is a freshman at her hometown college when she attends an off-campus party in March. Never in her worst nightmare does she foresee what ends up happening: a gang rape orchestrated by the Carlton Tigers’ star quarterback, Matt Dawson. Though devastated, Maggie reports the crime, and her assailants face a serious repercussion. Unfortunately, this doesn’t put an end to her ordeal—the outraged Tiger fans see to that.
Wanting only to escape the backlash, Maggie flees Carlton for western New York and moves in with her Aunt Wren, a sculptor who lives in a cabin buffered by woods and Lake Ontario. But this isolated location harbors secrets and situations that are anything but peaceful. Even worse, the trauma Maggie hopes to leave behind follows her, haunting her in ways she can’t control—insomnia, flashbacks, and a panic that persists. These troubles are intensified when she begins to receive mysterious messages from another girl who may also have been attacked. Just when Maggie musters the courage to answer the emails, the young woman goes silent.
In a book that is both urgent and timely, Melissa Ostrom explores the intricacies of shame and victim-blaming that often accompany the aftermath of assault.
The Beloved Wild
Sixteen-year-old Harriet Winter can cook, clean, spin, and sew. She’s a good daughter and certainly of an age to become a biddable wife. Except for one problem. There’s not a biddable bone in her body—and she will not marry Daniel Long, the neighbor whose initials, whittled on everything he possesses, spell D.U.L. Harriet wants to decide her own future. When her brother Gideon confides his plan to strike out for the Genesee Valley, Harriet decides to go, too…but not as a girl.
Disguised as an orphan named Freddy, Harriet makes her way west by wagon with Gideon while trying to forget Daniel, about whom she’s lately had second (and third) thoughts, finally arriving at the thick wilderness where Gideon intends to make his home. And it is here, amid sickness, temptation, unexpected guests, and a never-ending battle to create a clearing in the woods, that Harriet finally understands what it is she really wants, from her life and from herself.
Reviews for The Beloved Wild
In early nineteenth-century New England, oldest daughter Harriet chafes against the expectations placed on her, particularly when it comes to the handsome, eligible, land-owning neighbor, Daniel, whom her mother wants her to marry. Despite a slow-burning affection between Daniel and Harriet, the headstrong girl decides to join her brother Gideon when he leaves home to settle a parcel in the Genesee Valley. Determined not to let her gender get in the way, Harriet disguises herself as a boy and ultimately finds more challenges in the frontier than just hard labor. Ostrom infuses her lyrically written novel with plenty of period details about homesteading in western New York and cultivates a dynamic sense of atmosphere: the dense trees, mucky roads, and back-breaking labor under the sweltering summer sun are all vividly rendered….[T]he warm romance and witty banter between the well-wrought characters should please plenty of teen readers…
–Sarah Hunter, Booklist
Harriet Winter’s future is already planned out. She is the oldest daughter in a farming family, and she is expected to marry her neighbor, have children, and maintain a household. Only Harriet does not want any of these things—she wants a life filled with adventure and the power to make her own choices. When she learns that her brother is leaving home to make a life for himself in the wild Genesee Valley, she seizes the opportunity to go with him and escape her predetermined fate. On the journey, she discovers what she really desires.
Ostrom presents a rich, believable novel with a classic feel. The setting is textured and detailed, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in Harriet’s world. Harriet is a sympathetic character, and the secondary characters are complex and authentic….This is a great recommendation for fans of gutsy female characters like Jo March and Jane Eyre.
It’s a love note to a long-gone time of American history….a quick, entertaining read that I couldn’t put down. I love a contemporary as much as the next person, but every so often I need a book like this to remind myself of where we, as a nation, come from.
–Stephanie Johnston, Forever Young Adult Book Report for Kirkus Reviews
Harriet Winter, the novel’s indomitable main character, is so determined to decide her own future that she leaves home with her brother disguised as an orphan named Freddy. Ostrom charmingly crafts a tale filled with internal and external battles, and it’s no surprise that Publisher’s Weekly called the book, ‘Pride and Prejudice with a western backdrop.’
–Daniel Ford, Writer’s Bone
Harriet Submit Winter has no intention of living up to her name and marrying her boring neighbor Daniel Long to meet expectations of gender norms set up in pioneer times. Instead, she disguises herself as Freddy, a boy, and leaves the family farm in New Hampshire with her brother Gideon to forge a new life in the wilderness of western New York. Ostrom effectively contextualizes the discussion of societal limitations imposed upon women within the story’s well-drawn historical setting. For Harriet, her male alter ego provides her with a protective armor and a sense of limitless potential, while it also starkly highlights gender inequity. A complicated courtship in the wilderness plays out like Pride and Prejudice with a western backdrop, but the ending bucks tradition to set up a refreshingly level-headed ever-after that is steeped in reality and feels true to the journey.
Imagine the Oregon Trail as a love story. If you can, then you’re probably going to love Ostrom’s debut, The Beloved Wild. Set in 1807 New Hampshire, readers will follow Harriet “Harry” Winter as she navigates womanhood, farm life and pioneer life. Ostrom’s narrative hits just the right notes of humor, distress and romantic drama. If you’re looking for an adventure this spring, do yourself a favor and read The Beloved Wild.
–4 out of 4 Star Review on RT Book Reviews, Christin Gest, Romantic Times
Gr 7 Up–Life in Middleton, NH, in 1809 is not easy. Sixteen-year-old Harriet Winter and her siblings must till the land, chop the wood, make clothing, and endure the long, harsh winters. When her neighbor, Daniel Long, shows an interest in her, willful Harriet toughens herself against his kind gestures. As she watches his attention turn toward the fancy Goodrich sisters, she becomes resentful and makes the rash decision to leave home with her stepbrother, who is journeying to Western New York, where he plans to take part in the pioneering movement. Once on the road, Harriet chops off her hair and disguises herself as a boy in order to avoid the perceived limitations of her gender. Her adventure introduces her to a colorful cast of people, shocking human behavior, and unexpected mishaps. Nineteenth-century New England is beautifully depicted through straightforward prose, giving readers an accurate sense of life during this period. Landscapes of rolling streams, dense forests, and blistery snow are backdrops to a narrative in which a charismatic protagonist recounts her daily experiences and the questions she has about her life. Harriet’s modern flair for feminism adds a welcome departure from the patriarchal themes that dominate this era. Reminiscent of the works by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this charming novel is an enjoyable reflection on women’s roles, romance, and the power of choice. VERDICT A worthy addition to middle school and high school libraries.
–Karin Greenberg, Manhasset High School, Manhasset, NY, School Library Journal March 2018