Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Age: YA 14+
The story starts in 1890 in New York and we are introduced to a young girl named Jo Montfort. She is beautiful, rich, & is hoping to continue her life married off to a charming man named Bram Aldrich. But the past has a way of catching up to you...
Jo's family is one in five partners in a shipping firm called Van Housten's. The company trades in spices mostly and has done quite well for many decades. But the company is hiding a terrible secret. Jo's father is killed because of the secret and the mystery only continues from there. Jo enlists the help of an up and coming reporter named Eddie Gallagher; his knowledge of the city can help her get to the bottom of the mystery of her father's death. Along the way the pair need the help of some interesting characters including a morgue worker named Oscar Rubin & a pick pocket, call girl named Fay.
While digging up the truth Jo is out doing some unspeakable acts for a girl of her means & the time period. She's meeting strange men in the middle of the night at bars, using street children to break into buildings, going to brothel's, making deals with gang bosses, and even digging up a corpse!
But will Jo's hard work pay off and she'll find the answers, love, & freedom she longs for, or will she end up in a shallow grave of her own digging?
Likes: This book opened a little window into history. I don't read many period books, mostly books that take place in the future, or the present in an alternative universe or world. So the idea of the dress & the rules that had to be followed was very peculiar to read about. I did do a little research about the time & this is what I was able to find out:
The population of New York City in 1890 according to the U.S. Census Bureau was 1,515,301.
The average wage for a manufacturer worker was $1.75 per day in today's $ values & $427 per year.
The average wage for a building trade worker was $2.68 per day in today's $ values & $620 per year.
The average population per household was 4.93 people.
Here is a map of New York in the 1890's & some pictures including Central Park
This book also had several great quotes that I though I'd share below:
"If you're going to bury the past, bury it deep girl. Shallow graves always give up their dead" (Donnelly 187).
"This is the best thing, Jo. The city stretched out before you, glittering like a sack of diamonds. Yours for the taking. A drink and a smoke and no one to please but yourself. Freedom. That's my answer. The freedom to be your own best thing" (Donnelly 290).
One of the central theme's of the book is freedom which is something you would think a very wealthy person like Jo would have but she really doesn't because of the social standards set for that time. She spends a lot of time looking for it while also trying to not ruin her family's name, despite what happens in the end anyway.
Another great thing about this book is it takes some twist & turns along the way that you don't find out about until the very end. One of the things that I dislike about some mystery books is you know who did it right away & this book isn't like that. Just when you think you know who the bad guy is, SURPRISE! it's not him.
I also liked that there was a happy ending. After the way the book starts off I was worried something bad would happen in the end.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story about mystery, love, adventure, & finding ones true self & what makes you happy, not necessarily what is "right".