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Among the Fallen
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Among the Fallen
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Imprisoned for crimes she didn't commit, sixteen-year-old Orpha accepts an unusual invitation to live in a Victorian home for fallen women— and finds new hope.Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks...
Imprisoned for crimes she didn't commit, sixteen-year-old Orpha accepts an unusual invitation to live in a Victorian home for fallen women— and finds new hope.Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks...
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  • Imprisoned for crimes she didn't commit, sixteen-year-old Orpha accepts an unusual invitation to live in a Victorian home for fallen women— and finds new hope.
    Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks and withering in the miserable conditions of Tothill prison, an infamous Victorian workhouse, Orpha perseveres, doing what she can to befriend and protect the other girls imprisoned alongside her. She doesn't speak about what happened— no one would listen. No one would believe her.
    But then a mysterious letter arrives, offering her a place at Urania cottage. This experimental home aims to rehabilitate so-called fallen women— many of them victims of sexual abuse, suffering not only the trauma of their experiences, but the blame and loss of reputation and livelihood.
    It sounds too good to be true— but with nowhere else to go, Orpha decides to take her chance. Soon she discovers her unknown savior is none other than Charles Dickens, whose writing deals extensively with the plight of the lower class, and whose friendship and guidance offers Orpha a new way to express herself.
    With the support of the other women of Urania and the promise of a real future, Orpha will have to confront the darkest parts of her past— and let go of her secrets.
    This atmospheric historical novel, full of heartbreakingly real characters whose lives are all too believable, celebrates the strength and resilience of young women throughout history. Virginia Frances' Schwartz's powerful prose, structured to echo Dickens' serialized style, illuminates an era of startling inequality and extreme poverty. Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, and Katherine Paterson's Lyddie will enjoy this riveting title.
    Named to the Amelia Bloomer book List
    A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
    Nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction

About the Author-

  • Virginia Frances Schwartz grew up in rural Ontario, Canada, but now lives in Queens, New York, where she taught writing in the public schools before devoting her career to her own writing. She is best known for her novels for young adults which have been ALA Best Books for YAs, and winners of multiple Canadian awards including the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, the Ontario Silver Birch Fiction Award, the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, and British Columbia Red Cedar Award. Her work includes Crossing to Freedom and If I Just Had Two Wings. She teaches a creative writing course at UCLA Online.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2019
    A teen from Victorian England regains her reputation with the help of Charles Dickens. Sixteen-year-old Orpha has been serving out a sentence at Tothill Fields Prison. As the white teen nears the end of her sentence, Dickens interviews her for an opportunity to transition to Urania, a home for "fallen girls." Through flashbacks and her conversations with Dickens, readers learn how Orpha lost both parents, spent time in a workhouse, and was sexually abused by the man entrusted to care for her. Even more horrific, Orpha reveals how that man remained free while she, the victim, was charged for his crimes. Once in Urania, a real halfway house that benefactor Lady Burdett-Coutts established and Dickens supervised, Orpha meets former criminals and prostitutes, also victims themselves. Here, while finishing her education and preparing for a working position in a colony, she reconciles old and new friends and a lost childhood with the resourceful, talented young woman she has become. Written in 20 chapters to mirror the installments in which Dickens released his novels, this atmospheric story is imbued with the sights, sounds, and smells (or more accurately, odors!) of 19th-century London's rookeries, or slums. Like Dickens, author Schwartz (Crossing to Freedom, 2013, etc.) evokes the moral and political forces of the time; readers, particularly Margaret Atwood fans, will find parallels to the present. This Dickensian #MeToo novel calls out the lingering need for women's rights. (author's note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    Gr 10 Up-Set in Victorian England, this is the story of 16-year-old Orpha, an orphan wrongly imprisoned in Tothill. When the opportunity arrives to go to Urania Cottage, a home for fallen women to learn skills before emigrating to the colonies, Orpha decides to take the chance. During her time at Urania, Orpha is mentored by the mysterious Mr. Dickens who is eager to know all the girls' stories, though she is guarded in telling him hers. As she spends more time at Urania and develops relationships with those there, Orpha grows and learns to find her voice. As indicated in the preface, Tothill was a real prison and Urania Cottage was a real home supervised by Charles Dickens and founded by Lady Burdett-Coutts, who both appear in the story. Schwartz also shares that in homage to Dickens, she wrote this book in his 20 chapter style. This homage, however, causes the first half of the book to consist of long choppy chapters that bleed into short rushed ones in the second half. The overall theme of the story is different from other historical novels, which may make it appealing to some readers. Orpha shares her story about being raped by a family member, which may cause discomfort for some readers or trigger their own personal trauma. VERDICT Purchase only where historical fiction is popular.-Amanda Borgia, Uniondale Public Library, NY

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Canadian Children's Book News "Any enthusiasts of the Victorian era will be delighted by the attention to historical detail in this novel. . . . In addition, the use of Victorian slang and the skillful use of figurative language provide great authenticity to the way in which Orpha and the other characters interact with one another. Despite the seriousness of the topics of sexual abuse, poverty and prostitution featured in this story, the overall message is one of hope and transformation."
  • Canadian Review of Materials "[A] sophisticated, compelling and troubling work that will appeal to older teens, especially girls, and to adults who appreciate historical novels. . . . Thanks to her extensive research and skilled storytelling techniques, Virginia Frances Schwartz has depicted the plight of the Victorian poor with gritty realism. . . . older teens and adults will find it gripping."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Written in 20 chapters to mirror the installments in which Dickens released his novels, this atmospheric story is imbued with the sights, sounds, and smells (or more accurately, odors!) of 19th-century London's rookeries, or slums. Like Dickens, author Schwartz (Crossing to Freedom, 2013, etc.) evokes the moral and political forces of the time; readers, particularly Margaret Atwood fans, will find parallels to the present. This Dickensian #MeToo novel calls out the lingering need for women's rights."

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