THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY by Jessie Ann Foley

Post #3: Morris Award Finalist Blog Tour Week
YALSA’s Morris Award honors the year’s best young adult novel by a debut author. The Morris Award winner for 2014 will be announced at the upcoming ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. Writers’ Rumpus is honored to host a week of posts about the Morris Award Finalists.

Book Review by Marti JohnsonCarnival

The Carnival at Bray, a Young Adult novel by Jessie Ann Foley, has been chosen as a finalist for the William C. Morris Award by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association.

Foley’s story also launched the YA imprint of Elephant Rock Books and deservingly so. The tale of 16-year-old Chicagoan, Maggie, and her family’s reinvention in Bray, Ireland is both provocative and touching. Romance, peer pressure, parental angst, significant loss – it is all there against a backdrop of the late 90’s music scene prominently featuring Kurt Cobain.

Maggie’s voice is natural, an honest-to-goodness real teen with a good heart, in spite of the forces working against her. Overall, Foley’s character development is exceptional–Uncle Kevin being a personal favorite for the sheer edge to his soul. The settings are equally captivating, making it just as familiar to walk the path to Dan Sean’s cottage as it is to sprawl on Nanny Ei’s couch.

Many teens will relate to the anguish Maggie suffers: the selfish parent; the awkward, self-conscious ‘where-do-I-fit-in’ feeling; the loss of someone close to you. More teens (and ex-teens like myself) will applaud Maggie’s courage and wish they themselves could be so bold as to make a dream come true.

One pet peeve of mine in any story is the use of unusual ethnic names. While they enhance the setting, I wish there was some way authors and editors could help us with the pronunciation. Struggling to pronounce a name delays this reader’s ability to form a relationship with the character.  Regardless, the novel is well written and engaging. A truly entertaining read. Good luck to debut author Jessie Ann Foley. And, by the way, great cover art too!

By Jessie Ann Foley
Elephant Rock Books. Young Adult.

Finalist for the William C. Morris Award. The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.


  1. Your comment about the character development being exceptional is worth the price of the book. And i love that you gave a nod to the cover art, since that is also an important aspect of the package as a whole.


  2. This sounds like a terrific book. I agree with your comment about foreign names. I had never really thought how much that could get int he way of forming a relationship between reader and character, but that is a great point. Thanks for the post.


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