The Gift of Sarah Barker by Jane Yolen
Like the main precept of Shaker living, The Gift of Sarah Barker is pleasantly ‘simple’ in its story arc, though not in its intelligence. In Yolen’s first book for young adults (what was to be the first of many) she offers an interesting and unbiased look at life in a small Shaker community in antebellum Massachusetts. Though there is some typical adolescent mushiness (it is a story sparked by the temptations of the two teenage characters), the motivations of protagonists Sarah and Abel are not based solely on romantic/hormonal urges. Yolen develops these teenage characters with a deftness that makes the reader genuinely interested in their lives as they begin to question complex definitions of family, community, love, religion, and discipline– all in a relatively short novel. She also uses the (now common) technique of switching perspectives between the two main characters.
I recommend this for anyone who’s a fan of Yolen’s better-known work or may have an interest in day-to-day life in a Shaker community.