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A Shave And A Throat Cut

Look past the odd character names in Justine Larbalestier’s Razorhurst, and you’ll find an action-packed historical novel with a little paranormal business thrown in for flavor.

A Shave And A Throat Cut

BOOK REPORT for Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Cover Story: Postapocalyptic Copper Etching
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Old Timey
Bonus Factors: Australian History
Anti-Bonus Factor: Odd Names
Relationship Status: Second Date-Worthy

Cover Story: Postapocalyptic Copper Etching

At first glance, with that very orange sky, this book looks to be about something post-apocalyptic. Look closer, however, and you’ll see that the background really isn’t sky—it’s scratched-up copper (or something similar). This antique look goes much better with the story. But it doesn’t come across well unless you get close. Also: I don’t know who that girl is, or what she has to do with the story.

I prefer the Australian cover, which cleverly uses the razor in place of the z. (I’m a sucker for type-centric covers.)

The Deal:

In 1932, the Razorhurst neighborhood of Sydney was a very dangerous place. After guns were banned, criminals turned to razors to complete their nefarious deeds. The two main criminal families—led by Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson—were at a tentative peace, but it had begun to thaw, and cracks were quickly beginning to grow. The divide between the rich and the poor was staggering.

Driven by hunger, Kelpie, a street urchin with the ability to see and speak with ghosts, enters a shady boarding house (at the urging of a ghost with questionable morals). There, she finds Gloriana’s “best girl,” Dymphna Campbell, standing over the mutilated body of her last boyfriend.

Unexpectedly thrown together, and having more in common that anyone might expect, Kelpie and Dymphna must stick together to survive.

BFF Charm: Big Sister x 2

Both Kelpie and Dymphna have been thrown into Real Life and forced to do what they can to survive. In Kelpie’s case, she finds food and shelter with the help of friendly ghosts, but life on the streets—particularly streets as poor as those in certain parts of Razorhurst—is never easy. Dymphna’s was found by Gloriana and groomed to become a proper, beautiful woman, but that sort of protection—particularly from a mob boss/madam—comes at a drastic price.

I wanted nothing more than to give them both a big hug and take them away from their terrible lives. (I have a sofa bed! And hot water!)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

When you’re surrounded by bloodthirsty criminals and desperately trying to save your own neck, there’s little time for swoon. (And yes, Dymphna is a “chromo” (old-time Australian slang for prostitute), but that sort of thing is NEVER swoony.)

Talky Talk: Old Timey

It’s very apparent that Justine Larbalestier did a lot of research before/during the writing of Razorhurst. The world-building and language all feels very authentic to the 1930s (as far as I can tell), but it’s rarely distracting, as some historical novels can be (*cough*The Diviners*cough*). The book is fiction, as are the characters and the place, but it’s steeped in enough actual history to feel real. Justine’s got a gift for crafting complete characters, too; even the most minor were interesting and whole.

The paranormal aspects of the book, although well-written, seemed a little out of place, however. I would have liked a little more explanation for the whole “seeing ghosts” thing, but I suppose there are some things that just can’t be explained.

Bonus Factor: Australian History

Like I mentioned above, Razorhurst is a fictionalized account of a period in Australia’s history. But it’s based on actual people and events—or so says the acknowledgements and influences afterword. This realism makes for an all that more interesting read. (And also makes me all that much more thankful that I live in modern times.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Odd Names

Odd character names can be extremely distracting, and when two of the main characters have names like Kelpie and Dymphna—both accurate for the time period, I assume—it’s hard not to stumble over them as you read. Thankfully, I got much more used to them as the plot went on, and I didn’t pause at all by the end of the novel. But I will not be adding these to my list of possible names for future Curtis children.

Casting Call:

Aisha Dee as Kelpie

Dianna Agron as Dymphna

Relationship Status: Second Date-Worthy

I had a great time on our first date, Book, and although I wasn’t as captivated by your story as I could have been, I think there’s a spark between us that could develop into more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Razorhurst is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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