These Shallow Graves

index.aspxComing of age in the 1890’s was no picnic for a female. Even if your family had money, as Josephine Montfort’s did, the protagonist of the latest teen historical fiction offering by Jennifer Donnelly. As a young woman, Josephine was expected to marry within her social circle to whomever her parents chose, the richer the young man the better. She could look forward to a life of leisure, attending to social invitations and charity work. Jo had different ideas, however, wanting to make a difference by becoming a newspaper reporter. When her father dies suddenly, with suicide as the verdict, Jo refuses to believe that he  would kill himself and begins to investigate his death with help from some new friends of a very different social strata. The reader is reminded of Oliver Twist, as several of Donnelly’s characters resemble those of Dicken’s, especially “the Tailor”. Donnelly borrows Dicken’s theme of exposing the ills of society, and does an excellent job of leading the reader to question the concept of social responsibility and freedom of an individual. Recommended for grades 9 & up.


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