It's day 4! Time for another review. :)
Author: Sarah Henstra
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)
London, 1872. Seventeen-year-old heiress Leonora Somerville is preparing to be presented to society -- again. She's strikingly beautiful and going to be very rich, but she has a problem money can't solve. A curious speech disorder causes her to stutter but also allows her to imitate other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back... and watch as Leonora unintentionally scares off one potential husband after another. London in 1872 is also a city gripped by opium fever. Leo's brother-in-law Dr. Dewhurst and his new business partner Francis Thornfax are frontrunners in the race to patent an injectable formula of the drug. Friendly, forthright, and as a bonus devastatingly handsome, Thornfax seems immune to the gossip about Leo's "madness." But their courtship is endangered from the start. The mysterious Black Glove opium gang is setting off explosions across the city. The street urchins Dr. Dewhurst treats are dying. And then there is Tom Rampling, the working-class boy Leo can't seem to get off her mind. As the violence closes in around her Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions. But first she must find her voice.
Mad Miss Mimic is mysterious and dangerous. Set in a time of progress and a growing dependency on the mind-numbing effects of opium, this is the story of a young woman who must discover who she truly is before everything crumbles around her.
Leonora, for all her beauty and money, is a lonely young woman. Her sorrow uncovered and expressed through memories of her childhood. Trapped by a voice and a tongue she can't control, she's unable to get out more than a few words without stuttering. Or words in her own voice, before someone else's takes hold and commands her tongue. She's pitied and ridiculed by society. Leonora's bursts of curiosity lead her down an unsteady path straight into danger. She's not weak, not by any means, but fear and worry grips her more often than not. She has to find the strength to push past that, to finally take complete control. She must find the courage to yell and scream at the top of her lungs.
The research done by the author is clear on every page. The period details of polite society's chat and snobbery at the lower classes, the slums and the opium dens and the hopeful souls who lived there, the advances in medicine and in drug-trafficking. The sights and smells and sounds Leonora finds are all what I would expect to see.
This is an intriguing book set around events I haven't yet come across in YA. Historical, yes. Mysteries, yes. Lonely, broken girls trying to find their power and agency, yes. It's the centering of the plot around the opium trade, around its dangers and opportunities for doctors and criminals alike that sets it apart. Perhaps for me it takes a little while for Leonora to fully fall into the mystery, to finally ask herself what is going on. Still, I found this to be a great read with a rather intriguing narrator.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)