Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Published By: Candlewick Press (2015)
Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future.
Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns. (Taken from Goodreads)
I really liked this book. It’s a very different genre than what I typically read, and I usually can’t read journal-format, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this.
First off: the setting/time period. This book reminded me why I love historical fiction! It was authentic and true to the time, down to the phrases and words used by the narrator, and I found that refreshing—it’s always nice when an author takes the time to actually make their novel authentic. Even though I usually don’t like journal-format books, Joan was such a fun character that I couldn’t get enough of it. It felt very true to an actual journal, which was nice— usually I find journal type books to be so unrealistic; nobody just sits down and writes out pages of dialogue from memory—and Joan does tell things in great detail, but that’s also just how she is: thorough and excited. Overall I just was very impressed.
Joan was just hysterical! She was such a fantastic and real character and reading about her entertained me so much. There’s not much plot to the book; no strong overarching thematics or story; but it’s simply a sweet and true narration of one spirited girl and her determination, and it was very inspiring.
I loved what I learned about Jewish/Catholic culture in 1900s as well–I felt like I came away with a lot more knowledge then before. The romance was sooooo sweet, but I also really appreciated how it ended (I won’t share, to save spoilers). I felt it ended a little anticlimatic, but considering I just explained how there wasn’t much plot, I guess I can’t complain.
The only thing I can think of to note: Joan falls in love with one of the men at the house, and one night, she runs away from a job in the pouring rain to his house, where she approaches him daringly and tells him she wants to go with him as his wife. When a minute later the mistress and master walk in and see Joan wrapped in blankets (because she was wet) and alone with their son, they think Joan has been sleeping with him—though they don’t declare it in such explicit terms. Rather, it’s just implied in a way that it’s not directly said, but anyone would know what the parents are referring to. (I really appreciate this form of storytelling when it comes to these topics.)
Overall: I thought this a very enjoyable read! It was a little long, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Loved it!
Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
Recommended to: Ages 13+ would probably enjoy it best. Content wise appropriate for ages 12+.