Inventing Victoria

272p. Bloomsbury Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681198071.
RedReviewStarGr 8 Up—Fourteen-year-old Essie Mirth is ashamed of her prostitute mother, Praline, and the house of repute on Minis Street in 1880s Savannah (Forest City). She has a protector in storytelling caretaker Ma Clara. Essie earns a housekeeping position at Abby Bowfield's boardinghouse, where she makes her only friend, Binah, and meets a mysterious boarder named Dorcas Vashon. She is taken under Dorcas's wing, leaves her humble beginnings behind, and reinvents herself in Baltimore as Victoria Vashon, the niece of Dorcas. She receives strict education and etiquette training from Agnes Hardwick. The protagonist is soon welcomed by the black middle class and black aristocracy in Washington, DC. The teen struggles with her newfound socialite status. She is disturbed by the obnoxious, class-conscious and color-struck attitudes of the other society ladies. Victoria is courted by insurance entrepreneur Wyatt Riddle. She is faced with a blast from the past whose presence threatens her new life. Bolden makes this YA novel promising and enjoyable with a combined weaving of history and fiction. It is poetic, breathtaking, descriptive and fast-paced. Fans of Bolden's Crossing Ebenezer Creek will recognize Praline, but Victoria's story stands alone. Educators and history buffs might appreciate how some black historical figures are incorporated into the narrative.
VERDICT An excellent choice for YA historical fiction shelves.

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