Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teen Tuesday

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly (Delacorte Press hardcover, 27 October 2015).

As the only daughter of the wealthy American aristocrat Charles Montfort, 17-year-old Josephine is expected to graduate from finishing school and marry a rich, well-born young man.  But in late 19th Century New York, things are changing, and Jo would much rather become a journalist like her heroine Nellie Bly.

Even though she fights with the administration to publish some of her investigative pieces in the school newspaper, Jo's life is pretty rosy.

Until she receives the news that her father has died from a gunshot.  Her uncle manages to keep the detail that it was deliberately self-inflicted out of the newspapers, but Jo knows that her father was too experienced to clean a loaded gun.

On a stealthy visit to a newspaper that her father owns, she hears a young reporter claim that Charles' partners paid to keep quiet the fact that his death was really a murder.  Jo strikes up a friendship with Eddie, and his pal Oscar, a medical student who works at the morgue.

Jo defies propriety by teaming up with the two young men to find out what really happened to Charles, and in the process learns about things that Young Ladies should never even think of: poverty, prostitution, and child labor, for starters.

Class and gender differences of the period may be surprising to some teen readers, but Jennifer Donnelly is an experienced writer of historical fiction, and her research is accurate and thorough.

The novel is fast-paced and gripping.  I read it in a single afternoon, and would dearly love to read more of Jo Montfort's story.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the e-galley.

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