I was so sure I’d love this. I have really enjoyed all the historical fiction I’ve been reading from going through this award nominee selection process the past 2 years. And while this was mostly interesting, I’m not sure it will really pull in the high school age. I think it might actually be more a book my middle school kids would enjoy. Now, the main character is Essie, and I think she’s like 16? Not completely sure. Anyway, she is a Jewish girl who works in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. We begin the book with a flashback to her younger sister being born, and their mother not wanting to have anything to do with her, due to being so upset over the loss of their father. This is set shortly before the big fire that occurred in this building. There is something weird going on with the younger sister. You can kind of figure it out pretty quick, I think. There is a new girl who is very mysterious, and Essie follows her to her apartment, and then soon they become friends. Turns out her friend has a past, and Essie slowly pieces it together. There is a romance going on between Essie and a boy who lives nearby, Jimmy.
Anyway, we get a lot of the story told with what might be considered stereotypical “Jewish” sounding speaking. So we only get a little of the culture that way. Essie has a younger brother who is kind of a delinquent as well, and so the big turning point of the story comes when he gets arrested, and Essie must figure out how to get him out of jail. Jimmy, who is a law student, goes to the police station to help, and along with the errand Essie runs to her new friend Harriet to ask for the money she needs.
Shortly after this, she goes back to work at the factory one more time, the day of the big fire. Knowing this was going to happen, I was kind of looking for it throughout the whole book and it kind of made me maybe speed through the book to get to that. Not because I’m morbid, but because that is a big historical moment, and I wanted to see what the author did to bring it in, and how the main character would fare and what it would mean afterwards. The cover of the book also does nothing for it in my opinion. I understand what it means, because Essie makes hats, the type that were fashionable back then, but still kind of a boring cover.
Good book, but not sure it is appropriate for Gateway level readers. So I won’t be rating it one of the highest I read for the year.