THE UNRESOLVED

Prior to 9/11, the greatest single disaster of New York City’s history occurred on June 15, 1904, when the steamship General Slocum caught fire on the East River, killing over 1,000 passengers. Most were German women and children headed to the Sunday School picnic of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Welsh tells his story through the ghost of 15-year-old Mallory, whose first kiss—from a Jewish boy—may have precipitated the fire. Mallory’s ghost roams the Lower East Side, witnessing the attempts of the grossly negligent steamship company to avoid blame; the parents carrying tiny, home-made coffins to the graveyard; and the German merchants, hoping to scapegoat someone from outside their community. In this last, Welsh falls short, as the catastrophic emotions the survivors must have felt pale, in his version, against the idea that they might be able to blame a Jew. While the physical time and place are very well realized, the emotional landscape isn’t—Mallory’s ghostly presence contributes to an overall feeling of detachment. On the whole, however, a remarkable account of an incident about which many Americans know nothing at all. (Historical fiction. 14+)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-525-47731-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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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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A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.

THE POETRY OF SECRETS

In Trujillo, in the Spanish Kingdom of Castile in 1481, Isabel is a Crypto-Jew; she and her family maintain their Jewish faith in secret.

The Inquisition is gaining control, but 16-year-old Isabel, who has a passion for writing poetry, thinks that as New Christians her family is safe. The family converted to Christianity and were baptized in the hope of making their lives easier and more secure. However, like many other Jews in Spain at the time, they privately practice Judaism—attending church on Sundays but conducting Shabbat dinners every Friday night. They think their secret is safe, but the head Inquisitor, Fray Tomás Torquemada, is now targeting conversos for their private Judaizing. When Isabel is betrothed against her will to the powerful and ruthless alguacil, or sheriff, Don Sancho, Isabel’s parents believe that the upcoming marriage will save them from persecution. But when handsome aristocrat Diego warns Isabel that she is in grave danger from the Inquisition and especially from her husband-to-be, Isabel is determined to save her family, herself, and the man she loves—and live an openly Jewish life filled with poetry. This historical romance is a fast-paced, plot-driven tale with feminist main characters whom readers will root for from the very beginning.

A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. (author’s note, photos, research notes, poetry citations, further reading) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63418-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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