The Wicked and the Just

The Wicked and the Just - J. Anderson Coats "The Wicked and the Just" is one of the best YA historical fiction books I've read in the past year. I was very impressed with the way J. Anderson Coats wove the story of two girls caught in the turmoil of the clash between the Welsh and English during the latter part of the 13th century. The story toggles between the perspectives of Cecily, a spoiled, well-to-do English girl who moves with her father into the territory, and Gwenhwyfar, a young Welsh girl living a difficult life. One of the things I like about this novel is that it gives a bird's eye view into the lives of the two girls and establishes their voices quite prominently. Cecily is a girl who craves many things and has quite the snappy attitude. Sometimes she's likable in her wry commentary, and other times she's so indulgent that she doesn't have a grasp on the suffering of the people around her, which makes her difficult to like. Gwen is a young woman who's bitter at the abuse and use of the English that surround her - having lost her father within the clashes, her mother gravely ill, and her brother and her subject to the harassment and maltreatment surrounding them. Gwen blames the English (and frequently calls Cecily "the Brat") for the turn of events in her country. Coats treats the subject matter with care, giving a firm view and perspective between the two girls and what their view on the conflicts are, as well as each other.There are quite a few clashes that affect both girls and their perception of events, but it comes to a head after a horrible event. I think the title "The Wicked and the Just" is appropriate for this story because it shows the sides of cruelty and the perception of what justice is and isn't from the perspectives of these girls who see the horrors of the conflict, and ultimately have to come to terms with the reality of the aftermath. Granted, much of this book is written in a progression of life for about 75% of the book, while the latter quarter displays the biggest clash that the girls have to face. What makes it alluring is the voice that Coats gives to each of the girls and allows their perceptions and personalities to be well rounded, and I appreciated the development and the insight into a period of history that I knew very little about until after I read this book. I would highly recommend it for those who like YA historical fiction and coming of age stories.Overall score: 4/5Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.