A teen from Victorian England regains her reputation with the help of Charles Dickens.
Sixteen-year-old Orpha has been serving out a sentence at Tothill Fields Prison. As the white teen nears the end of her sentence, Dickens interviews her for an opportunity to transition to Urania, a home for “fallen girls.” Through flashbacks and her conversations with Dickens, readers learn how Orpha lost both parents, spent time in a workhouse, and was sexually abused by the man entrusted to care for her. Even more horrific, Orpha reveals how that man remained free while she, the victim, was charged for his crimes. Once in Urania, a real halfway house that benefactor Lady Burdett-Coutts established and Dickens supervised, Orpha meets former criminals and prostitutes, also victims themselves. Here, while finishing her education and preparing for a working position in a colony, she reconciles old and new friends and a lost childhood with the resourceful, talented young woman she has become. Written in 20 chapters to mirror the installments in which Dickens released his novels, this atmospheric story is imbued with the sights, sounds, and smells (or more accurately, odors!) of 19th-century London’s rookeries, or slums. Like Dickens, author Schwartz (Crossing to Freedom, 2013, etc.) evokes the moral and political forces of the time; readers, particularly Margaret Atwood fans, will find parallels to the present.
This Dickensian #MeToo novel calls out the lingering need for women’s rights. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 14-18)