Author Gennifer Choldenko sets Chasing Secrets in her beloved San Francisco in 1900. The novel is brimming with nuanced characters: a spunky heroine, an independent brother, a layered aunt, a secret friend, a concerned father, and more. Ms. Choldenko invests serious page-time to capturing the historical setting and flavor of life at the turn of the century; no corners are cut in this department. This creates a gentle start to the story, but it is well-worth it because it strongly connects the reader to protagonist, Lizzie, and gives a multi-dimensional perspective of the different concerns and issues at hand. The action in this book comes closer to the end and the ultimate ending is poignant, but feels authentic. Chasing Secrets is a solid addition to middle grade historical fiction and a great testament that there is always room for excellent writing.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Wendy Lamb Books (A Random House Children’s Imprint)
Profanity/Language: 2 religious exclamations.
Violence/Gore: Character is treated for broken limb caused by a fall; character has been in a fight and has visible injuries, some of which need to be treated and there is a brief description of stitching up a wound; character pricks finger with needle (on purpose) and blood is mentioned; character is taught to defend herself (general description); report of a character jumping from a window and injuring self; character’s dislocated limb treated (brief description); brief explanation of what it means to be “shanghaied”; scene (~1 page) in which group of men threaten a 13 year old girl physically and verbally–chase, grab, struggle, etc.; character sees bodies stuffed into containers; extended scene in which mob threatens violence; characters become ill; character die from the plague.
Sex/Nudity: Girls like boys and vice versa; girls “chatter about brassieres”.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death of a family member, plague, illness, death, racial prejudice and discrimination, discrimination (women), power of the press, ethics.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults drink; adults smoke cigarettes; mention of men coming home from saloons; man smells of rum.