I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken first when I was twelve, and it was one of my favorites immediately. I keep rereading the whole series all the time and still find it fascinating.
About the Book:
Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease. With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?
These were truly believable characters, and they were dropped into a really nasty situation. No one likes losing their parents, but adding the loss of their home topped it all. I loved the way the two girls never let themselves get down. They fought back with everything they had. Since this story takes place in an England with slightly alternate history, the story also taught me (unconsciously) about the way of live in GB. Joan Aiken is a genius. What I loved best about this series is that she took one minor character from the first book and made him the hero of the next and so on. That way, there was always room for the characters to grow, and I was never bored. I might borrow this idea some day. 😉