Genre: YA nonfiction
Summary: When two young, royal people meet, fall in love, and marry, what else but a Happily Ever After could possibly await them? Well, in the case of Nikolai and Alexandra Romanov, its anything but. How about watching the country they rule slide into an agonizing civil war that eventually results in the brutal murder of their entire family?
Critique: There are many reasons why Flemin has received the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and a Golden Kite Award for her nonfiction (with a Sibert honor and YALSA finalist recognition for this book to boot). But the best reason is that she writes ripping page turners, by which I mean you darn near rip the pages out of the book to see what happens next! In this example, Fleming establishes a teasing structure whereby she introduces the Romanovs at the height of their glory, wealth, and power, all while deftly hinting at debilitating secrets and an inevitable tragic demise. Sprinkled throughout the narrative are “peasant interludes” taken directly from diaries or newspaper accounts. Unlike commercial breaks interrupting your favorite crime drama, these passages contribute an outsider’s perspective, further illuminating what the rest of the world saw as the dark side of Romanov rule. Scope under the skin of her words and you’ll find a very standard syntactical anatomy. Where some writers give you pagefuls of damask, Fleming gives you denim: succinct, functional, with an as-a-matter-of-fact style. No, denim is not as fancy or flashy as damask, but it is durable. Good thing, considering all the burn marks your fingers will leave on the pages as you race along the downward spiraling vortex of tragedy marking the last third of this Happily Neverafter Tale.