Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

Publisher’s description

ra6Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history. The imperial tradition of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage. But before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer of freedom and privacy in a far corner of empire. Posing as a commoner in Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an extraordinary bond and maybe a one-in-a-million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process.

Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved not by the cost of blood and theft but by the effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a surprising, romantic, and thought-provoking story of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

that inevitableEvery so often a book will come along that I read and want to review to help promote it, but all I really want to say is “SO GOOD. GO READ IT.” Usually that’s because there is so much that happens in the plot and so many revelations and I don’t want to spoil anything—I just want to direct people to the book so we can freak out together.

THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING IS SO GOOD. GO READ IT.

Okay. I’ll attempt to do better than that.

Like history? Like alternative histories? Set in the near future? That feature multiethnic and LGBTQIA+ characters? Then this book is for you. I will admit that it took me a good 50 pages to really get into the story. The slow start was, for me, mostly just figuring out and remembering who the characters were, what their relationships were to each other, and what this new version of the world looked like. The story really picks up as it goes on, and about 1/3 of the way through, a detail is revealed that makes every relationship in the story all the more interesting.

If you’ve ever read any of other Johnston’s other books, you know she excels at world-building and at crafting dynamic characters, and this book is no exception to that. Margaret, Helena, and August are complicated people trying to figure out their path forward while realizing they all need to reevaluate their futures as events of this monumental summer unfold. And while the interplay and movement of various relationships satisfy, it is the relationship between Margaret and Helena that truly shines.

If you don’t want to know anything more about this book because you plan to read it, this is a good time to stop reading this review, particularly if don’t want to know more about the main relationships in the book.

 

Still here? Hi.

 

When Helena logs in to the Computer to find out more about her genetics and her matches, she sees a detail, previously unknown to her, that stops her in her tracks: Helena has XY chromosomes. She’s not immediately sure exactly what this means, but she does think that perhaps this may change things with August, who she has always planned to marry, knowing he wants a big family. Then there’s the fact that she’s chatting on the -gnet with someone—Helena has logged on as a boy (because of the XY thing; it is only later that she comes to know the term “intersex” and begins to understand herself better), calling herself Henry. The person she is chatting with, her genetic match, is also using an alias. She’s actually using multiple aliases.

Just when it seems like things could not get more convoluted, everything starts to fall into place. The characters begin to see the possibilities of their new paths, including a plan that may give all three main characters what they want in life.

 

This clever, smart, and romantic story is a fantastic exploration of identities, futures, and obligations. Readers who push through the somewhat slow start to the story will be swept up in this interesting near-future world and likely surprised by the resolution the three young adults settle on. Richly imagined and completely compelling. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

 

ISBN-13: 9781101994979
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 10/03/2017

Sunday Reflections: The Cybils are Here!

For several years, I have had the honor of being a part of The Cybils. The Cybils are book awards given out by bloggers (and readers) for the best of the best in a variety of categories. As a teen librarian, I have been a part of the YA award category. In that category, we look at both literary merit and teen appeal.

cybilslogo

Sometime in October, nominations open up. Then a group of first round panelists read all those nominees and create a “short list” of titles. The short list goes on to a round of judges who will pick one of those titles and declare it the winner of The Cybils for that year.

While reading a ton of books – seriously, this year there were over 200 in the YA speculative fiction category – we have intense behind the scenes discussions about the books we are reading. That’s my favorite part. These discussions always help me look at some of the books a bit differently then I did before. Sometimes, you champion a book; which means that you really have to be able to talk about why you think a certain book should be on the list. Other times, we might have intense discussions about concerns about a book, whether those concerns be about representation, messaging, characterization, etc.

Several years ago, the book I loved most didn’t make the short list at all. I fought long and hard for this book, but no, it was not to be. In the end, I was still super proud and excited about the short list we put together. The process is just as meaningful to me as the list we put together and share with you. I love talking about YA fiction with other people who love YA fiction. But it’s more then just that, these are people who love to really talk in depth about YA. And I can’t stress it enough, it’s challenging, rewarding, intelligent discussion and it can really change your point of view.

Want to know who made this year’s short list? Click on over to The Cybils website. It’s another great list and this year, one of my favorites did indeed make the short list. I’ll give you a hint – it’s the book I blurb!