The character descriptions are very basic and, as in most children’s books not full of the in-depth backstories that readers have to cope with as they get older. To make the characters more memorable to the age group this book is aimed at, the Author associates traits to them and then uses these traits in the naming protocol for the characters throughout the book. As fun as this was, and a middle grader would probably enjoy it immensely, this was the weakest link in this book for me, and the reason it only gained a three thumbs review. All the characters are nicely stereotyped though, and as with all things farcical this fits the overall tone of the novel very well indeed although it did bring up the problem for me that, as I read through the book, all the schoolgirls tended to ‘speak’ with the same voice. Again I couldn’t see this been a big issue with the audience the book was aimed at, and put it down to my ancient age. As the book progresses though, despite the Authors attempts to keep the main characters tied to their adjective laden names, their true characters begin to leak through and the reader gains a small insight into the backgrounds and home lives these girls have. One thing that comes through loud and clear, and ties all these girls together is that none of them want to return home, and this is major driving force behind the book.
Although this is a complete farce, with murder, mystery and a few thrills thrown in, it is also a cleverly written historical novel which brings to light the societal perception of women in the nineteenth century. Not only does the reader subtly learn of how society perceived women, but it also gives them a look at what it meant to be a young woman/girl in this time, and how the ‘rules’ affected the way they not only saw themselves but the world around them. The book itself is a very effective period mystery that has been well researched and then had the facts woven together with fiction in a clever way. However I do feel that this may receive a better reception if aimed at the high school age group rather than middle school, as they would be more attuned to picking up on some of the nuances than a younger reader may be.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, apart from naming protocol, and read through it in a weekend. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys farce, and also those who are looking to introduce younger readers in their circle to something new.