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Review of The Midnight Dress

foxlee_midnight dressstar2 The Midnight Dress
by Karen Foxlee
High School     Knopf     281 pp.
10/13    978-0-375-85645-7    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-95645-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-449-81821-3    $9.99

Self-contained, morose fifteen-year-old Rose and her alcoholic father arrive in Australian beach town Leonora, and it seems like they may actually stay put for a spell, for once. Rose enrolls in school and is immediately befriended by Pearl, who’s very different — outgoing, luminously pretty, an optimistic dreamer. Pearl tells Rose about the annual harvest festival and urges her to start thinking about a gown to wear. Enter the enigmatic Edie Baker, an old dressmaker in a keepsake-overrun house who’s rumored to be a witch. Edie agrees to help Rose make her dress, and a hesitant friendship blossoms from Edie’s storytelling sessions disguised as sewing lessons. Though ostensibly the tale of a magical midnight-blue dress, there are many story lines within Foxlee’s complex novel: Pearl and Rose’s close but strained friendship; the girls’ tip-toeing into their own sexual relationships; Edie Baker’s sad history; the powerful lure of the neighboring mountain, described vividly and mystically; Rose’s relationship with her impenetrable father and Pearl’s tireless search for her own one-night-stand dad; and also, importantly, the narration (in italics opening each chapter) of the investigation into the tragedy that befalls one of the girls. Though the layers are many, they coalesce into a dreamlike, eerie whole told in mesmerizing, sensuous prose.

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.



  1. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Thank you for recommending this wonderful book. I read it in December and cannot stop thinking about it. It is definitely a book for older kids that will appeal to adults. The ending. Wow.

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