A gem from start to bittersweet finish.

LUCK OF THE TITANIC

Seventeen-year-old Valora Luck boards the Titanic in search of her twin brother—and destiny.

As children, Val and Jamie performed acrobatics to bring in money during lean times, dreaming of one day becoming circus stars. But after their White British mother’s death, Jamie left to work for the Atlantic Steam Company while Val stayed in London to care for their Chinese father. Now, with both parents gone, Val is determined to find what’s left of her family and forge a new path in America. There is, of course, the Chinese Exclusion Act to contend with, but Val is confident that she and Jamie can convince one of the ship’s passengers, a part owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus, to hire them and bring them into the country. Unexpected allies provide help along the way, including an American couture designer and Jamie’s fellow Chinese steamship workers. Issues of racial and class discrimination are seamlessly woven into the story as Val’s adventure takes her through the Titanic’s various decks, from a first-class suite to the boiler rooms. Her wit and pluck give the story such buoyancy that when tragedy strikes, it almost comes as a surprise. Anticipation of the inevitable adds a layer of tension to the narrative, especially with a sober note prefacing the book that informs readers, “Of the eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic, six survived.”

A gem from start to bittersweet finish. (Titanic diagram, list of characters, author's notes) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4098-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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