Young Adult fiction runs the gamut of styles, content and intensity, from super sweet young teen reads to dark and gritty stories suitable only for very mature teens and adults. So where does my tale of spygirls in Queen Elizabeth’s court, Maid of Secrets, fall in that range?
I thought it would be easiest to ask the spies themselves.
Meg (The Thief):
Well, begging your pardon, but I am a thief, and a good one. ‘Tis only what I’ve known all my life, of course, and I don’t steal but what someone has left out in the open for the taking. I mean, really, some people are just careless. So, yes, there is thievery, pick-pocketing and the like, and a fair amount of the light-fingering of letters not intended for my eyes. But if I were not to thieve, I and my troupe would starve. And if I were not to follow the Queen’s orders to steal these letters I mention, I would be imprisoned. As to the Queen herself, ’tis said she carries on with a married man… but you’ll never prove it by me. Love is a private matter, and that’s all I will say on that.
Beatrice (The Court Insider):
Oh, pray, don’t preach your morals and high standards to me, for I have seen the truth of them! The only thing ‘noble’ among many of the lords and a fair number of the ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s court is our birth, I’ll tell you now. But still, we are not fools. As bawdy and flirtatious as the Queen’s court is, there is only the suggestion of indecency you’ll find in these pages, nothing plain to the eyes. Of course, Meg’s terrible manners and poor schooling are a scandal… does that count? And while I have it on good authority that the thief makes big moon eyes at her Spanish boyfriend, and the two steal kisses here and there, there is no more between them that. Pish, ’tis a surprise there’s even that, as annoying as Meg is…
Sophia (The Seer):
I cannot really say as I have anything to add to this discussion, for though it is thought that I might, perhaps, one day see more than what one can ordinarily see–see the future in fact–it has not happened yet. Still, there is the idea of magic and some might even say witchcraft, which I suppose is only fitting, as I am ward to John Dee, the Queen’s honored astrologer. But within this first tale, I can assure you, nothing more is wrought from me than the wringing of my own hands. I hope my gift does manifest soon, if manifest it will! And I hope it is indeed a gift, and not the curse I fear…
Anna (The Scholar):
Well! So much to ponder on the question of age — the language in Maid of Secrets is a bit formal, I should say, a bit longer in sentence and cadence than in a typical tale. That’s only fitting, as it’s historical fiction, but still, ’tis something to keep in mind. That said, any learned girl beyond the age of 12 can pick up this book and enjoy it–and any fan of Elizabethan history can find much to recommend this book, no matter her age!
Jane (The Assassin):
I kill people, make no mistake. I stalk and track and strike from the shadows. But as a wise man once said: if you find me at your door, chances are you’ve done something to bring me there. And to be plain, you’ll see none of my handiwork on the page in Maid of Secrets. Ample murders and knife fights occur in this tale–Meg’s young Spanish count, Rafe de Martine, takes particular issue with a few unlucky Spaniards, and the death that has brought Meg to our group was gruesome indeed. There are also grave threats, particularly to Meg, who must face the prospect of a bloody awful fate. And, too, there is some terrible pain visited upon minor characters by the villain. . .though he gets his due, in the end. But the violence is measured and shouldn’t offend. An’ if it does, well. ‘Tis not the tale for you.
And there you have it! Maid of Secrets is intended for audiences twelve and up, and has themes of empowerment woven into its tapestry of Tudor-set intrigue. Murder and violence do occur, but not gratuitously, and the language is only slightly salty. The few curse words that find their way onto the page are mild by most standards. There is no sex on the page in the book, and Meg’s romance with Rafe goes no further than a few passionate embraces. She is a Maid of Honor, after all.
If you have any questions, by all means, post them in the comments below!