It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
I absolutely loved Gail Carriger's adult series, The Parasol Protectorate, starting with Book the First: Soulless. With the light, witty tone of Jane Austen crashing into the clockworks and invention of Jules Verne, Gail Carriger has hit the sweet spot in her book universe. Set in the same delightful universe, her Finishing School series for teen readers explores a pair of unorthodox boarding schools for boys and girls: one for training up evil geniuses and the other for preparing female intelligencers to face the wild world of espionage and Picklemen.
I quickly fell in like with the main character of Etiquette & Espionage, Sophronia (love the name!) Temminnick, because of her intelligent fascination with how things work and her innate indifference to fashion and manners. I related to her because she comes from a large family, wears last season's dresses from her older sisters (though in my case it was a cousin), and can't help but be curious about everything! Even better, she doesn't come from a family steeped in the mystery of Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quali-tay. She's more like a scholarship case, referred to in the book as a covert recruit.
With her affinity for stable boys and indifference to gender or racial differences, Sophronia exudes goodness, despite her position at a school for would-be assassins and intelligencers. She is truly a main character to applaud.
While the many intriguing and mysterious characters come from diverse backgrounds and personalities, the school itself is a character. Its shape, its geographical location, and its propensity to float above the ocean all make the setting one of constant excitement and, yes, of course, danger.
While I haven't been a teenage girl for some time now, I do have a little anecdote which leads me to believe this book would be equally beloved by teen girls. Knowing my mom's love of good fiction, especially with a 19th century England setting, I gave her the book as soon as I finished it. She took it to work the next day and immediately lost it. Rather, it was stolen. Fortunately, she found it in the hands of one of her "troubled" girls who lives at the school where she works. The girl begged her to get the book approved so she, too, could read it. Apparently, she had read a few pages and was hooked. If that's not a glowing review, I don't know what is.
I'm waiting on amazon to bring me my sequel copy, Curtsies & Conspiracies.
Have you read Gail Carriger? Would you read her YA series? (Hint: The answer is yes!)