I don’t usually review new books here, but I’m going to do this one now because I thought it was fantastic, and hey, things are slow right now, so why not?
The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz, 2015.
Now, I’m not going to recap this one, since it’s so new I don’t want to give away any of the details, but I’m going to do a short review of it in general. Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! and a Newbery Honor for Splendors and Glooms, so her pedigree is already fairly well established, but The Hired Girl is a bit of a departure from all this. It’s set in 1911, and it’s targeted at the 11-14 age group, but it plays pretty heavily on some themes in literature and art that may go over the heads of younger readers. But for someone like me, reading it as an adult, it’s fascinatingly well-done, though I don’t know how I would have taken it as a 13-year-old.
Joan Skraggs, the titular hired girl, is a fourteen-year-old girl in Pennsylvania, living with her semi-abusive father and three sloppy older brothers, none of whom respect her. She’s been doing the household work since her mother’s death years ago, and she’s exhausted from doing a ridiculous amount of heavy labour by herself without any sort of compensation or a kind word from anyone. She’s had to drop out of school, and finds solace in reading her three books over and over again. When her father burns her books, Joan decides that’s the last straw, and takes the little bit of money her mother left her in secret and runs away to Baltimore to become a hired maid at six dollars a week.