because bibliophiles require refreshment

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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Oh my gosh was I gripped by this book. I adored Baldwin’s writing and how she wove her characters. I would recommend this one to readers interested in strong women and early 19th century history, whether they’re in the YA genre or not. While I wouldn’t use it as lecture material (there are a few too many hypotheticals) I would recommend it to students interested in these areas for sure. Especially because one of the things I like to make sure my students understand is that there have been strong women throughout history, even when the writers have chosen to exclude them.

I’m fearful of revealing too much of the plot because it’s worth taking the journey yourself. But I will say the story centers around “unusual” girls – girls who don’t fit into societal molds, girls who don’t bend to what women were supposed to be. Some are intelligent, some are “mouthy”, some have premonition abilities. What binds them is that their parents are so embarrassed by them that they’re willing to ship them off to a home which publicly promises to “fix” their eccentricities.

Throughout the book, as they learn about themselves (this is YA after all, petals), they also learn about how they may or may not fit into the world around them and how their choices affect those places.

If you have any interest in reading books about strong women set in times of yore, then pick this one up. I’d especially recommend it for young readers – boys and girls – who are reading at a 7th grade level or above. I’d say some of the themes of abandonment especially may be a little much for younger readers, but you know your kids.

I enjoyed this one with a large glass of Diet Coke, on ice with a few slices of lemon.

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Further Reading:

  • Mighty Girl’s Women in History:: Mighty Girl is an incredible blog resource for anyone looking to integrate information about strong women and girls into their life. This list is a fantastic place to start for readers young and old and includes lots of wonderful and powerful stories left out of most history books.
  • Badass Victorian Women:: Carrie Sessarego of SBTB has been doing a project on amazing women of the Victorian era who have been largely discounted from history. This is a transcript of a podcast where she talks about it at length.
  • Working class education in Britain:: One of the dynamics of this book is the emergence of education in Britain throughout the 19th century. This article provides more insight into that process.
  • “History of Unladylike Behavior”:: An article in the Independent newspaper which explores the cultural constructions of “lady”. Well worth a gander.

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I have been provided a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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