Review: Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (9781681198071)

Set in the 1880s, this novel explores the world if Essie, a young African-American woman who grew up with a neglectful mother and was rescued from poverty and prostitution by a kindly cleaning woman. Determined to keep learning even though she left school at an early age, Essie continued to read everything she could get her hands on. While working at a boarding house, Essie meets Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African-American woman who sees potential in Essie and offers her a way to transform her life. Taught etiquette and new manners by Dorcas over several grueling months, Essie becomes Victoria and takes on the persona of Dorcas’ niece. As Victoria enters the social elite in Washington, D.C. she must hold to the lie that she is living until she can’t manage it any longer.

Bolden captures a period in American history that is rarely seen in books, much less teen novels. It is the period after Restoration gave African-Americans new rights but before the Jim Crow laws came stripped them away. It is a dazzling time to be a member of society and Bolden gives us details about the books, the manners and the dresses that make up that world. The setting of Washington, D. C. society is beautifully depicted as well.

Essie/Victoria makes for a wonderful set of eyes to view this world through. While she is taken with her new lifestyle and the opportunities it brings, Essie wrestles with the lies she must tell to keep it that way. Her strength of character is particularly evident when she is pressed such as learning etiquette and at the end of the book when she must make a moral decision. It is then that Essie fully steps into her own.

A fascinating look at a neglected piece of American history. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

2018 Best Teen Books!

This was a great year for books for teens, particularly those written by diverse authors about diverse characters. Here are the 20 books that I loved the most:

The Belles (The Belles #1) Blood Water Paint

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (9781484728499)

A mesmerizing first novel from an incredible new talent. – My Review

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (9780735232112)

A necessary and vital call to action, this book shows that women have stood up all the way through history and their voices will not be ignored. – My Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (9781250170972)

What an amazing read this is! It is a world that no one has seen before, a world anchored by Black Lives Matter that will echo for fans of Black Panther. – My Review

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (9780525552963)

Come fall in love with Darius and Iran at the same time in this amazing debut novel. – My Review

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) Emergency Contact

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (9780062570604)

A wild and bloody book with a fierce protagonist who sears the page. – My Review

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi (9781534408968)

Beautifully written, awkward in the best way and entirely empowering and accepting, this novel is a warm hug for readers struggling with anxiety.  – My Review

Fresh Ink: An Anthology Girl Made of Stars

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles (9781524766283)

Strong writing, great stories and a call to action will make this collection a popular one. – My Review

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (9781328778239)

Fierce and angry, this novel about sexual assault and the power of survivors. – My Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (9781250147905)

A great read, this blend of fairy tale and horror is completely intoxicating. – My Review

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)

Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. – My Review

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein The Place Between Breaths

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (9781626725003)

This verse novel is pure wonderment. – My Review

The Place Between Breaths by An Na (9781481422253)

Masterfully written, this is a harrowing depiction of mental illness in a family. – My Review

The Poet X Rabbit & Robot

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662804)

One of the best verse novels I have ever read, this one deserves a standing ovation.  – My Review

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)

A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. – My Review

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (9780525580966)

Each of Dayton’s stories is an ethical question wrapped in a taut and fascinating plot in a shared world. – My Review

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (9781510727663)

A joy of an LGBT read that will give you all the feels. – My Review

Summer of Salt A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno (9780062493644)

This is one of those books that you fall for hard. It sweeps in with poetic language that invites readers to explore the island of By-the-Sea, breathe in the magic, taste beautifully-named ice cream flavors and linger in the autumnal graveyard for awhile. – My Review

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (9780062671158)

No matter whether they are fantasy or contemporary fiction, these stories are each tantalizing and rich. – My Review

A Very Large Expanse of Sea What If It's Us

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (9780062866561)

A fierce heroine faces racism alongside romance in this gripping novel for teens. – My Review

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple.  – My Review