About the Book:
Title: The Storyteller
Author: Kathryn Williams
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: Jan. 11, 2022
Publisher: Harper Teen
Synopsis: With the mystery of Maureen Johnson and Brittany Cavallo and the historical intrigue of Romanov, this enthralling story follows a teenage girl’s quest to uncover the truth behind her secretive great aunt Anna, who just might be the long lost Russian princess Anastasia.
It’s not every day you discover you might be related to Anastasia…or that the tragic princess actually survived her assassination attempt and has been living as the woman you know as Aunt Anna.
For Jess Morgan, who is growing tired of living her life to please everyone else, discovering her late aunt’s diaries shows her she’s not the only one struggling to hide who she really is. But was her aunt truly a Romanov princess? Or is this some elaborate hoax?
With the help of a supremely dorky, but undeniably cute, local college student named Evan, Jess digs into the century-old mystery.
But soon Jess realizes there’s another, bigger truth waiting to be revealed: Jess Morgan. Because if she’s learned anything from Aunt Anna, it’s that only you can write your own story.
Part mystery, romance, and historical fiction, this genre-bending YA will pull readers into one girl’s journey of discovering the impossible tale of a long-lost aunt—and through her, the importance of being true to yourself.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, including Amazon, and I may earn a small commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through my links.
“We’re all made up of stories, the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we tell each other.”
While helping her other clean out her deceased great-aunt’s belonging, Jess Morgan finds a collection of journals. Intrigued, Jess hires a college student fluent in Russian to translate Jess’s finds, and Jess learns more than she ever expected. Could her great-aunt be Anastasia Romanov, the Russian princess rumored to have been assassinated with the rest of her family? As Jess learns about her aunt’s past, she must also face the challenges in her own life, including strained relationships at home, fights with her friends, and not being entirely honest with her boyfriend or herself.
An interesting coming-of-age novel, the story is told in two timelines – the early 2000s with Jess and the years before and after the assassination of the Romanov family. I like that the book includes translated passages of Aunt Anna’s journal from when she was young. These journals document her thoughts and feelings and add such a strong voice to Anna’s story.
I always find historical fiction like this so fascinating. What if Anastasia survived? What kind of life would she have had? The story delves into Anastasia’s life, as well as world politics, and Russian culture during the time of Anastasia’s life. References to literature, Anastasia’s family, the turbulence of the times, and more add depth and context to the story. I didn’t know a lot about Anastasia before reading this book, and I found her journals so interesting. I actually went and read more articles online about Anastasia and her family because of this story.
The more Jess learns about her aunt, the more she learns about herself. She identifies with this princess, a young woman who, like Jess, pretended to be someone she wasn’t. This is especially noticeable when Jess is with her boyfriend. She is a totally different person when she is with him and his friends, and she does things she wouldn’t ordinarily do just to fit in and be accepted. I feel like this is something so many people do, and I, myself, have done it a time or two. The desire to be accepted and loved is strong, and Jess’s character shows this so well.
I think Jess is a pretty relatable protagonist. She’s an intelligent, hard-working teenager, eager to fit in and be liked, a bit insecure, and very curious. She is a people pleaser who tries to appease those around her, yet she is not entirely happy. I like how Jess slowly learns to be true to herself and shows people who she really is. I think teens will relate to many of the problems Jess faces, and there are some great messages throughout the book about knowing one’s worth, discerning between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and the importance of storytelling.
Thanks so much to NetGalley, the author, and Harper Teen for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
I can tell these words hold meaning, the way a voice carries emotion even when you don’t know the language being spoken.
It embarrasses me, how easily I’ve handed over so much of who I am.
History is a story we tell ourselves.