Author: Amy Carol Reeves
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Release Date: April 8, 2012
Summary: In 1888, following her mother’s sudden death, 17-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother’s request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there. But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
☆: 3.5/5 – a solid YA debut.
Review: I have to say, the spin applied to the historical case of “Jack the Ripper” by Reeves in this story is one I hadn’t really considered before. Yes, there have been supernatural/paranormal spins on the Ripepr case before, but not quite in this manner. “Ripper” is solid YA historical debut, mixing in a lot of the late Victoria era’s different parts of culture to make an interesting read. But not all of it added up for me, and with the way Reeves put everything together, I wish that hadn’t been the case.
I think my issue was that it dragged significantly in terms of arc execution, and didn’t really start getting interesting until the last half or third of the book (depending on how you look at it). Even when the Ripper murders begin, the pace is sluggish, and there’s no sense of urgency with Abbie when it comes to the fact that hey, she might be next (even if she’s not a prostitute, she still works at the hospital and thus in the danger zone). There’s also the unbelievability factor, historically, that her grandmother would continue to let her work at the hospital when the murders are going on, regardless of how highly esteemed Bartlett is as a doctor. And especially unchaperoned. I thought that part of the arc could have been cut, or could have been edited differently – had it been twisted a little more, it might have been more believable historically, and it also might have helped the arc go a bit more smoothly than it did.
The pace. The pace until the last half of the book was pretty slow, and my mind wandered quite a bit until the murders actually began, as I said before. Since pace and arc execution tie in pretty intimately within this book, it needs to be said once more that had things been edited or drafted differently in terms of how the arc leading up to the Big Reveal was executed. Until it’s revealed that she really does have a connection with the Rosetti family and how they also tie into the secret society (which is such a big part of the plot), things just kind of meander along until the Big Reveal.
But even when the Big Reveal happens, we know that there hasn’t been something quite right about Whitechapel Hospital all along, especially when the Secret Society motto keeps popping up everywhere along with its chalice. And then there are the visions. So I wish I could say that I couldn’t see where all of this was going, but it was pretty obvious, and I could have done for a little more mystery on the author’s part in terms of where the arc was going.
The characters were pretty well-constructed, so I didn’t have much complaint there, and the world was more or less believable. It was more with the characters’ behavior not really tying in quite right to how late Victorian society was in terms of how girls of the elite were supposed to be taken care of (always with a chaperone) and so forth. However, this is still a pretty solidly put together story, and I think this might be a good way to get younger YA readers introduced to historical fiction with a good paranormal twist, but for me, it just didn’t quite ring true.
Still, it’s worth the read, so go ahead and give it one. “Ripper” is out now from Flux Books in North America, other places consult your local bookseller.