My Contrary Mary – by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. HarperTeen, 2021. 9780062930040
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? Get ready for adventure and giggles in this madcap and magical retelling of the story of Mary Queen of Scots. If you’ve followed this trio of writers’ other outings (specifically, My Lady Jane, a companion volume), you’ll know what you’re in store for, and if not, the prologue reveals that this is a revisionist history. Real people, who actually met bloody ends, here survive, fall in love, and thrive. Instead of Catholics vs. Protestants, it’s Edians (who can magically transform into animals) vs. Verities (normals bent on torturing the shapeshifters). Mary, publicly identified as a Verity but actually an Edian, has a mouse as her alter ego, which comes in handy when she needs to spy on her conniving uncles and future mother-in-law. Francis, the future king of France and Mary’s betrothed, survives in this version instead of dying early, and their sweet love story anchors the plot. Adding to the fun is Ari, daughter of Nostradamus, a potion-master to rival Severus Snape, whose weird visions are actually scenes from contemporary movies. The irreverent narration constantly butts into the story with contemporary slang, spoilers, and wry observations that definitely skew historical fiction expectations. All of the characters in the novel are White.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No. It’s definitely idiosyncratic and will definitely appeal more to fantasy fans than those who love historical fiction, although it may send some teens back to Wikipedia to learn about Mary’s actual fate.
To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of this groups’ previous novels will enjoy this one, which I thought was just as good as MLJ and My Plain Jane. Jane Grey even gets a cameo toward the end of this book, helping Mary and Francis reunite. Those in search of queer characters will enjoy the budding romance between Ari and Liv, one of Mary’s ladies-in-waiting (who can also change into a horse). Definitely a good match for those who like their fantasy with a bit of snark.
Who should buy this book? Middle, high school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, fantasy if you genre-fy
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: August 1, 2021