Rummanah Aasi
 I thoroughly enjoyed Gennifer Choldenko's Tales from Altracaz historical fiction series and was very excited to learn that she has a new historical fiction/mystery titled Chasing Secrets which is set in San Francisco during the Gilded Age. Please note that this review is based on the advance reader's copy of the book provided by the publisher via Netgalley. Chasing Secrets will be released on August 4th, 2015.

Description: San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
   The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.


Review: Chasing Secrets is an ambitious historical fiction/mystery read. It tackles injustices that exist within gender, class, and race. It shows us a very dark and seedy side of San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. Choldenko does a great job in bringing the historical details of medical experimentation and immunization politics to life along with heightening hysteria, propaganda, and xenophobia during the outbreak of the bubonic plague, which are seen through the eyes of Lizzie Kennedy.
  Lizzie Kennedy is a plucky heroine of a middle class family. She attends the prim and proper Miss Barstow's School for Young Women, courtesy of her affluent aunt and uncle, much to her dismay and she would rather accompany her father on his medical house calls. She longs to follow in her father's footsteps, unheard of for a girl during her time. To ease her school loneliness, Lizzie relies on her friendship with Jing, her family's beloved Chinese cook, who never fails to brighten up her day. When Jing fails to return home one night from Chinatown, Lizzie fears he may be stuck and put under quarantine. Rumors about the plague infecting San Francisco originating in Chinatown begin to circulate and increase in speed, only Chinatown is put under quarantine. The race to get Jing out begins. Lizzie is desperate to find him, not only for herself, but for Jing's son, Noah, who is hiding out in Jing's upstairs room. 
 I really liked Lizzie and Noah's secret friendship which grows with genuine tenderness. Both characters are self aware of the dangers their friendship causes, but they resort to making their bonds stronger despite these huge obstacles. I was disappointed that the mystery took too long to get started and was resolved quite quickly, which effected the book's uneven pacing. I would have liked the book to go a bit deeper in highlighting how the Chinese immigrants were treated in America during this time. Overall despite these issues I think reader's would be happy with a strong female protagonist and a solid story of friendship.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
4 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    I love historic reads like this one! It sounds fabulous with all the medical stuff, which, was pretty terrifying back then.
    Wonderful review!


  2. Anne Bennett Says:

    You write so well. It makes me want to read the book. Thanks for hopping by my blog. Yes Go Set a Watchman is controversial but I think it is worth the time.


  3. Even with the uneven pacing, I do like the sound of the characters and the subjects it tackles. Hm... might have to check this one out, but good to know that about the mystery.


  4. This sounds like a really good read!


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