“What if Sir Isaac Newton’s parents had packed him off to a school to reform his manners?”
Title: A School For Unusual Girls
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Publication: May 19, 2015 by Tor Teen
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts
Okay, I don’t know what else to say besides the fact that I absolutely loved this book. I really enjoy books that take place in historical settings, like The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare and His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. This book was sort of a mix between the two.
Set in 1814 London, we are introduced to Georgiana Fitzwilliam who is currently trapped in a carriage with her parents on their way to this infamous boarding school. From what we learn in the synopsis, this boarding school that is supposed to reform young ladies into marriageable quality through various tactics not excluding torture. But, that is only the sales pitch given to the parents of these “unusual girls.” The school is actually some sort of training ground for spy work, at least I think it is. We never find out what the school, or anything really. Every time Georgie asks a question, she is given no answer and therefore – neither are we. This book is written entirely in her point of view so we only know what she does, which is not much. One thing we do know is that each of the girls at Stranje House have unusual talents, and that was why they were sent there. Georgie is extremely devoted to science and experimentation, the reason she is being shipped off to this house is because she burnt down her father’s stables and the neighbor’s apple orchard while trying to create a formula for invisible ink.
One of the things I loved the most about this book was that the historical elements were accurate. She did not give it this book a setting in the Regency era and then completely disregard the customs of that time period. These characters acted and spoke to one another the way I would think people from 1814 would speak, and it only made me love them more. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone writes a story that is in a different time and place, but the characters act and talk as if they are still from our time. This book had no such issue, and I am very thankful for it. Not only did the consistency with the setting make the book easier and more enjoyable to read, it enabled me to feel as if I were actually there in that time with them. I also loved how vivid the setting was, every last detail was perfectly described – but it did not make the writing dense, nor did it take away from the internal monologue of the main character and the action.
Another think I adored were the relationships between all the characters. Since this book is not out yet, I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. When we first meet the rest of the girls in Stranje House they are hostile and rifling through Georgie’s trunks, but they soon become the best of friends. This transformation I found to be particularly heartwarming. I always love it when books feature more friendship between females than a romance. Don’t get me wrong, there is romance in this book and Sebastian is swoon worthy, but it reminded me of Vampire Academy where the focus was on everything but the relationship with the romantic interest.
Now, as for Sebastian, or more commonly referred to as Lord Wyatt. He is also part of one of my problems with the book, but it is such a minimal issue that his other characteristics made me love him as much as Georgie did. We first meet him when he catches Georgie after she falls while spying on him, sort of cliché, but it was still adorable. But, this is also where the problem begins. He relentlessly teases her, and while the teasing and bantering between the two of them is given and taken equally, I still think it is a problem that needs to be addressed. I am tired of seeing books/movies that show that it’s okay for a guy to tease and make fun of a girl just because he likes her. It’s not okay, and we shouldn’t be acting like it is. If a boy treated me the way that the man in this book treats Georgie, I would smash his toes through the floorboards. To be fair, he gets nicer throughout the story, but he could’ve started that way. When he does become nicer though, all I wanted was for him to be on every single page for the rest of the book. I can’t wait for the next one, not only to see what happens after the cliffhanger but also because I /need/ to see more of his relationship with Georgie.
The second problem I had is something I also pointed out in my last review: I am sick and tired of the main character being a female with unruly, red curls. It’s like authors have forgotten that there are other colors out there besides differing shades of auburn. I’m sorry, but carroty and auburn are still red – not two different colors like brown and blonde. It isn’t a huge problem in retrospect because Baldwin weaves it into the story and doesn’t just throw it in there for shock value. The red curls are something that make Georgie more unusual than she already is, I get that in the context of the story – but this is also the fifth book in a row I have red where the main character is a ginger.
A School for Unusual Girls is an exciting, heartbreaking, and fast paced read. The story is so rich and vivid in its descriptions and characters that you can’t help but be put under a spell. If it wasn’t for school coming up on finals week, I would have finished this book in one sitting it was so good. I can’t wait for more, I need the sequel now – not some undeclared date in the future. There is so much mystery and danger throughout the book, it is so deceptively written than you don’t realize things until it is far too late – sort of like Georgie. I would recommend this to any fans of Grave Mercy and Clockwork Angel, or to anyone who enjoys spy novels and historical fiction. This book is much more than just a spy novel, at least in my opinion, but it seems a somewhat fitting classification. I would say this book is appropriate for ages thirteen and up, the proper decorum of the characters and situations eliminates a lot of adult content which makes it appropriate for younger readers. There is still a lot that goes on, and the few kisses that are there are intense. This will be one of the series I follow until completion and cry between breaks in the books – this has become a new obsession. Well done.