A girl in a big yellow dress stands facing a city.

About the Book

Title: A Mad Wicked Folly
Published: 2014
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Society Debut
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Early-Century Modern
Bonus Factor: Suffragettes
Anti-Bonus Factors: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Sisters in the Cause

Cover Story: Society Debut

A woman in a gorgeous (although historically inaccurate) gown looks down upon the bustling streets of a turn-of-the-20th-century city. The juxtaposition of the modern woman and the sepia photo makes for an interesting statement—perhaps on the changes that happened for women in the early 1900s?—but also seems a little too photoshopped for its own good. (I’d love to have a dress like that, though.)

The Deal:

Art is Victoria Darling’s life. For as long as she can remember, she’s gone about her day sketching and drawing as often as possible. There’s nothing more that she wants than to become a well-known and respected artist. But, as member of the upper class—and a woman—her future is already mapped out for her: get married, have children and make her husband happy.

While at a finishing school in France, Vicky finds an atelier at which she can practice her art, including studies of the nude form. When the class model doesn’t show up one day, it’s Vicky’s turn to pose…not knowing that a classmate has followed her, and immediately runs back to the school to tattle.

Vicky’s one joy is taken from her when she is forced to return home to London and make right the shame she has caused her family. In the midst of planning her coming-out and an engagement to a man she barely knows, Vicky finds herself unexpectedly entangled with the suffragette movement and a muse who happens to also be a very handsome working-class police constable.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Although Vicky is a somewhat entitled rich girl who’s never had to work a day in her life and has never wanted for anything (other than to be an artist), she’s a likable sort. Upon her forced return to her family’s home, she does a lot of growing up in a short period of time. And although for most of the book she’s not entirely willing to stick her neck out, which is a bit frustrating, I can’t blame her for that. It’s a frightening concept, being out on your own with no money and no skills, and it was very likely even more frightening for a woman in the early 1900s. I would be OK with being friends with Vicky at the start of A Mad, Wicked Folly, but I would totally be BFFs with the woman she becomes by the end.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

For a book set at the start of the 20th century, there are a couple of moments in A Mad, Wicked Folly that are surprisingly swoony. Vicky’s a somewhat modern-minded woman, and her thoughts—when faced with swoon-inducing situations—are more familiar than I would have expected. I mean, I know that people were still people in the 1900s and had the same sort of thoughts and urges that we have today, but it always throws me a little to read them in the same chapter in which Vicky talks about how much trouble she’d get in were anyone to find out she was in a man’s apartment without a chaperone.

Talky Talk: Early-Century Modern

I’m not completely familiar with the day-to-day life of people in the Edwardian period in England, so I have no idea if Sharon Biggs Waller’s details are 100-percent accurate, total bunk or somewhere in between. (I’m assuming it’s closer to the first, if the bibliography and author’s notes in the back of the book are any indication.) Most of the book felt accurate, at least, with a few instances of plot points or language that just seemed too modern. (Vicky as a nickname for one; was that really used as a nickname for Victoria in the early 1900s? I picture a bubbly blonde girl wearing legwarmers in the 1980s when I think of a Vicky.) On the flip side, I do appreciate a historical fiction novel that’s not stuffed to the brim with completely unfamiliar jargon and situations; A Mad, Wicked Folly pleased me greatly in that regard.

Bonus Factor: Suffragettes

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

I am always in awe when I read about the lengths women at the turn of the 20th century went to in order to make their voices heard. The suffragettes in A Mad, Wicked Folly put their own lives on the line for the cause, getting arrested, going to jail and participating in hunger strikes that lead to (horrifyingly described) force feeding. These women are my heroes.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Vicky’s parents—particularly her father—are THE WORST. Her father thinks she’s good for nothing except to look pretty and make her husband happy. When she tells them how much she wants to be an artist, her mother tells her the idea is “preposterous.” I don’t blame Vicky for trying to thwart them at every turn.

Relationship Status: Sisters in the Cause

You’re a bit of an inspiration, Book, which I definitely didn’t expect going into our first meeting. You’ve got some interesting views of history to share, in addition to some good advice on how it’s vital to take chances for the life you really want. Thanks for that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Viking Books for Young Readers. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. A Mad, Wicked Folly is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.