By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Teen comes into power in suspenseful alternative history.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
May encourage readers to think about "what if" the U.S. had become a monarchy, and whether its democracy is better or worse than a monarchy.
Not having power over your own life robs you of the chance to make your own story and experience your own life the way you want it to be. Asks whether having power will turn you into the same thing that kept you suppressed, or whether you can use it to make the changes you want to see. Everyone deserves to be able to make decisions about their own lives.
Positive Role Models
Claire, 17, is a positive role model for courage and perseverance. She's frustrated at the limitations put on her by a society that makes women the property of men and assumes women aren't intelligent. She knows she's smart, but she learns that she's capable of more than she thought she was. She also starts to explore questions about having real power, and whether to use it to make the changes she'd like to see, or to do the things she's always wanted to do. Best friend Beatrix is a good model for curiosity, perseverance women who excel in STEM fields. She's found a way to experiment with her flying machine secretly, works with an underground to change the government, and is a helpful, supportive friend. Claire's father is abusive and seems to suffer from mental health problems. Other characters are mysterious and Claire can't be sure whom she can trust. Brief, positive representation of cross dressing a few times when Claire and Beatrix dress as men and enjoy their greater senses of freedom, entitlement, and personal safety.
Violence & Scariness
Past physical abuse like slapping full across the face, a beating with a belt, and a boy who beat a cat and two girls with a switch and clearly enjoyed it. Mention of Thomas Edison electrocuting animals like cats, dogs, and horses that foam and the mouth and fall over dead. Some rifle fire, threatening with guns and pistols, and a serious gunshot wound. Pain and blood are described briefly but there's no gore. Past rape, and rape as a way of exerting power and controlling are implied. Fantasy weapons include a rifle that shoots electricity.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few brief kisses. A few mentions of being "taken to bed."
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"Damn," "goddammit," "son of a bitch," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few scenes take place in a nightclub where background characters drink to excess. A teen drinks several glasses of champagne.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Muse, by veteran author Brittany Cavallaro, is a fantasy set in the 1890s in an alternative United States, where George Washington accepted a monarchy called the Kingdom of America. Violence is mostly in the past and mentions physical abuse like slapping, beating, and whipping, which are briefly described. Rifles and guns are used to threaten and shoot in an uprising, and a character suffers a serious gunshot wound. Pain and blood are described briefly, but there's no gore. Rape in the past and as a threat are implied. There are a few kisses and mention of being "taken to bed." Several scenes take place in a nightclub and background characters drink excessively. A main character who's a teen has several glasses of champagne. Profanity is rare and no stronger than "damn," "son of a bitch," and "hell." The main issues explored are women's rights and feminism in a world where women are property, political power, and the right to make your own decisions about your life.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
MUSE is the story of Claire Emerson, who's 17 in an alternative Chicago in 1893. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington accepted a monarchy and he and his descendents have ruled the Kingdom of America ever since. Claire's father has been commissioned to build a tremendous cannon for the upcoming Great Exposition, but he's struggling to finish it on time and still hasn't gotten it to work properly. Mentally ill, abusive, and controlling, he wants to keep Claire with him because he believes she has a magical power to make his wishes become real, and he needs her to get the big cannon to show what it can do at the grand opening of the exposition. The cannon finally does work when it's supposed to, but only after Claire puts her hands on it. Which catches the attention of Duchamp, the young hereditary governor of the province, who whisks her off to his mansion where he can keep her close. Claire is swept up into a world of intrigue, looming war, and an attempt to replace Duchamp with a woman who would be queen in all but name. Can she save the province and restore Duchamp to power? Or maybe even keep some of it for herself?
Is It Any Good?
Author Brittany Cavallaro takes an interesting historical "what-if" and infuses it with page-turning suspense. Wondering what the U.S. would be like if it had become a monarchy instead isn't exactly new, but setting the story at roughly the halfway point between the end of the Revolutionary War and now offers a unique chance to imagine how a monarchy would have evolved along the way. The author populates her world with colorful characters, both real and fictional, and using an alternative Chicago World's Fair as the main backdrop is a nice touch. Readers who find the premise intriguing will no doubt enjoy this book. And although the writing certainly moves the story along, it doesn't provide anything more than that, or offer a compelling reason to read the book if the idea doesn't grab you.
Teens will relate to Claire and her best friend Beatrix as they chafe against rules that keep them from making their own decisions and doing what they want to do with their lives. Plot twists keep the reader, and Claire, guessing and the pages turning. The surprise ending will leave fans anxious for the rest of the story in the planned second volume. This novel is best for readers who enjoy alternative realities, letting go, and going along for the ride.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about women's lives in Muse. Were women's roles very different in the 1890s in real life? A lot has changed for the better, but what do we still need to work on as a society?
Stories in which history turned out differently than it did in real life are very popular. What do you think of the idea? Is imagining different outcomes interesting? Does it offer new perspectives or possibilities? Or should we not mess with what really happened in the past?
Have you read any other books by Brittany Cavallaro? How do they compare? Or if you didn't, would you like to now?
- Author: Brittany Cavallaro
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Activism, Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: February 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 12, 2021
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