If you've read my (very few) YA reviews, you know we're not big fans of contemporary, "lip-gazing" YA lit. But this was absolutely fantastic! My 17-year-old daughter read it and LOVED it, and I read it and fell in love with the story, as well.
Essie grows up a child of a prostitute in the late 1800s. Her mother owns and runs the house of ill-repute, but it's the cleaning lady who convinces her mother to send Essie to school, where she's bullied incessantly, and finally drops out.
But Essie never stops learning, never stops wanting more for herself and out of her life. She finally moves away from her mother's house and influence to work in a reputable boarding house, and there she comes into contact with Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African American woman who quickly recognizes Essie's potential and offers to lift her up into affluent African American society -- but only if Essie is willing to say goodby to everything and everyone she loves in her old life.
She takes the challenge, becomes Victoria, and in the course of learning all about the affluent African Americans in Washington, D.C., and how to integrate into their society, falls in love with a promising young man. Will he return her affection, after she confesses her true origins?
What my daughter and I both loved about this book was that it never got too physical and Victoria maintains her head and good sense, even while she's figuring out what to do. There was none of the, "I can't live without him" nonsense we read in a lot of YA romantic literature. There's too much at stake. Victoria is a strong 16-year-old who's worked hard to get where she is and isn't going to throw it away, but she wants to follow her heart, too.
We strongly recommend this book! Enjoy.
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