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Inventing Victoria

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  315 ratings  ·  98 reviews
In a searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden illuminates post-Reconstruction America in an intimate portrait of a determined young woman who dares to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie's dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 8th 2019 by Bloomsbury YA
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Average rating 3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  315 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Sarah Hannah
Okay, this wasn't totally the big magic I was hoping it would be based on the cover (! gah) or the description (period piece! wealthy black people! a piece of history you pretty much never read about, especially in fiction!), but it was still some magic for sure, and I would hand it to a lot of kids if I were still working as a librarian. Where it fell flat was pacing and characterization. I know, I know, that's all a book is, right? But no. There's also setting and plot skeleton and sundry. Any ...more
mindful.librarian ☀️
(free review copy from the publisher)

Inventing Victoria is a young adult novel about a time period in American history not often written about, especially in YA. Set in 1880's Savannah, Georgia then Baltimore, Maryland then Washington DC, this is a story about Essie, the daughter of a prostitute - a former slave who "came to Savannah on General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous march to the sea". Essie wants to make a better life for herself against the backdrop of limited opportunities for Blac
Destiny Henderson
Well, Inventing Victoria is not exciting (it's mad dry and needs some lotion), but it is a good portrayal of some of the horrors/realities African-Americans experienced during the 1800s (blatant discrimination/racial attacks but new triumphs as well). We don't get too much insight into Essie's head, so this story is more plot-driven. Honestly, I don't know too much about Essie. Besides her circumstances and the shame she feels from her mother, and her love of drawing, what does Essie like or th ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Born after Sherman's March, raised in Savannah, Essie wants to be better than her mother, better than her surroundings. Given the opportunity, she becomes the protegee of a wealthy woman who educates her in everything she needs to rise in society. But this means leaving everything she knew behind, even those who helped her to rise.
Panda Incognito
Don't let the beautiful cover fool you. This is not a polished, elegant young adult book about a young black woman rising socially during the Reconstruction Era. Instead, it's a rambling mess that squanders its premise and strongly resembles the style and substance of the Out West Pioneers story I wrote the summer after sixth grade.

Thematically, this book and my story have nothing in common, but they are both similarly terrible in their inability to harness plot, character, or setting towards an
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Ehh, I wanted more from this one.
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this one. I really truly did. It gave me upper-class post-slavery, moving on up vibes--while it delivered that; at a languid pace--it left me wanting.

I'm just going to start right off when the things I didn't like. The story itself seemed on a path to something that by the end it didn't quite meet. It was aimless and plot-less if I can say so.

The writing itself is magnificent--engaging and truly believable for the time it was set in. From the dress and the language, it read like
Lost in Book Land
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I want to first say thank you again to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book, I was super interested in this book when I came across the title online and I just really wanted to read it as soon as humanly possible, so thank you to them for making that happen! This is a historical fiction novel (and I was super interested to read it because I love history)!

Anyhow this book centers around Essie in the 1880s. Essie is living in Savannah and she has big dreams but these never seem to matc
Brandy Painter
This book mostly suffers from me wanting it to be something other than what it was. I thought Crossing Ebenezer Creek was a riveting and important book. I was looking forward to reading a book that explored the time period after Reconstruction failed. I liked that some of the characters from Crossing Ebenezer Creek were in this book, and from a historical perspective it was quite good. It was just so very dry. I wanted to know the characters more and really get inside their head. The vagueness a ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

There were so many things I appreciated about the story - the setting, Essie/Victoria's determination to move up in society, her relationship with the mother figures in this book - but at the end I was craving a bit more expansion. The story, in and of itself, is one that is well rounded, all ends tied up, a fantastic setting, history, and a main character you can empathize wi
Jan 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
It's probably not fair to comment on a book that I am unable to finish reading, even though the reason for stopping is because I just couldn't stay with it any longer-I did look at the end and saw that it was concluding in an even more pitiful way that I would have thought. It's a nice idea, to follow a girl whose mother was a slave-turned-prosititute as the girl escapes her meager background to flourish in society. I couldn't stay with it because the conflict was so slight and uninteresting, th ...more
I read an ARC from Bloomsbury YA via NetGalley. I read Crossing Ebenezer Creek and found it really compelling. Had I not read Tonya Bolden before, I might not have picked this book up based on the cover. I wouldn’t normally read something about high society. However, I knew I liked Bolden’s storytelling and this book did not disappoint. You don’t have to have read Crossing Ebenezer Creek first, but if you did it’s nice because this book takes place after those events and lightly includes seconda ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, ya
very compelling read about an era in history I know almost nothing about! I really love when a book highlights a little known period or part of history. The reference guide at the end is of particular note int his case; I'm glad to know the author took the work seriously, and has directed us to places to learn more.

I found the flashbacks at the beginning very captivating; I think I read the first 100 pages in one or two sittings!
Inventing Victoria initially intrigued me, and I read the first 30 pages in one sitting. However, as the story progressed, I started to lose interest. I think "Victoria" started off as a strong character but slowly descended into a superficial character. I ended up cutting my losses halfway through and put the book down. Too bad because I thought it had so much potential.
Rachel Meyer
It started out pretty interesting, then slowly took a downward plummet into boredom. Honestly, it felt like something I would have written as a young writer, full of long descriptions of dresses, weird cuts between scenes, time jumps, and no actual story. There were a few good parts, but the rest was boring. Such a pity, because it looked interesting and the concept could have been done well.
Sidik Fofana
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
SIX WORD REVIEW: Secrets revealed in Black genteel society.
Mar 20, 2019 added it
See my review for this book at: ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I feel like there was so much potential here and it all just came to nothing. What a bummer! The story was good, the quality of research was so high, and I really loved reading about a side of history I don't often read about. However the writing just didn't work for me.

This is a ~young~ teen book, probably middle grade at the highest. It feels so young in both language and story telling. It's also told in a timey-whimy way, flip flopping sometimes from past and future. That didn't really bug m
Kristie Lock
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Victoria smiled wide. “It never ends, does it?”
“Not if you are awake to the world.”
Kathy Martin
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This historical fiction story tells about Essie, a young black girl in Savannah, in the 1870s and 1880s. Essie's mother is a prostitute who came to Savannah on Sherman's March to the Sea. The first few chapters tell about Essie's childhood being hidden in closets when her "uncles" came to call.

Essie was befriended by a cleaning woman who convinced her mother to send her to school. While she learned to read, she eventually left because of bullying by those who looked down on her because of her m
Yana D.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I moved to Baltimore as a very wide-eyed and sheltered 20-year-old, I had my own Dorcas Vashon. She was a wonderful woman who, though we weren't related by blood, looked out for me as a dear aunt does her niece. That part of the story which I have such ease relating to, and my eternal interest in the lives of African Americans during the post-Reconstruction era, makes me love this book. However, when I stripped away the familiar names (Mary "Mollie" Church"), the ease of the author to fold ...more
Anita McDivitt Barrios
If you've read my (very few) YA reviews, you know we're not big fans of contemporary, "lip-gazing" YA lit. But this was absolutely fantastic! My 17-year-old daughter read it and LOVED it, and I read it and fell in love with the story, as well.

Essie grows up a child of a prostitute in the late 1800s. Her mother owns and runs the house of ill-repute, but it's the cleaning lady who convinces her mother to send Essie to school, where she's bullied incessantly, and finally drops out.

But Essie never s
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-authors
I think Inventing Victoria is a case of a really great concept with a mediocre execution. The story follows a young black woman raised in poverty who is given the opportunity to reinvent herself and join black high society in Post-Reconstruction America. It is chock full of black history from that era, highlighting key events and figures often left out of textbooks. It's the sort of thing that could be great as assigned reading for a high school history class (and would add some much needed dime ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
Set in the 1880s, this novel explores the world if Essie, a young African-American woman who grew up with a neglectful mother and was rescued from poverty and prostitution by a kindly cleaning woman. Determined to keep learning even though she left school at an early age, Essie continued to read everything she could get her hands on. While working at a boarding house, Essie meets Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African-American woman who sees potential in Essie and offers her a way to transform her lif ...more
Libby McDermott Voight
It took me a little while to get into this book and understand and appreciate the writing style, but once I did I enjoyed it. It's a quick read. The descriptions of food, clothes, books, etc. are beautiful but neither the world nor the characters are really fleshed out, but I found that I didn't really mind because it was on purpose and not what the author was trying to do. It's an accessible historical fiction book for teens.

Whether you like the stream of consciousness style or not I would rec
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: tla_tl_2020
From goodreads review: "...#ownvoices books about racism and social justice in the US throughout history, and this fills an important time period and viewpoint void on that list. I will also be recommending it to my middle school teachers as a good choice for historical fiction lit circles.

And now a few thoughts on why this book didn't blow me away, despite its very well-researched tale of a time period and viewpoint so unique to this genre.
Overall, the book was always very transparent i
Amanda Thomas
"Don't judge a book by its cover", is an English idiom that describes this book perfectly. This story is about the mixed race daughter of an African American woman - former slave, single mother, and lady of the night.The story takes place during the 1880s, post America's Reconstruction Era. The story begins in Savannah, Georgia.
After moving to Baltimore, Maryland the main character gains an opportunity to enter into an environment where she can expand upon her education, benefit from a stable ec
Caroline Beltrami
I was really excited about this book because I've never read anything to do with the Reconstruction period or shortly after and was intrigued. This book, however, did not live up to any of my expectations. I didn't really identify with any of the characters - the only one that's averagely developed is Essie/Victoria who is kind of bland. I was interested in the boy, but he's only in it for like one second. The other characters are extremely static. It was like the book felt too long because it w ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can’t think of another novel, YA or not, about Reconstruction, so this story was very unique in that respect. This is a rags to riches story but with race at the center. I’m her desperation to improve her station in life, Essie decides to go with Dorcas Vashon to get etiquette training and join the black middle class and aristocracy in Washington DC. Now Victoria, she never fully subscribed to the assimilationist idea that whiter is better and that leaving behind your past is the only way forw ...more
Jane Irish Nelson
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childen-s, historical
Fascinating story of a young black girl growing up in Savannah, Georgia, shortly after the end of Reconstruction. Essie desperately wants to better herself in able to help others of her race, but doesn't know how to escape her past, until Dorcas Vashon, a guest at the boarding house where Essie works, offers to help. The first step is to leave Georgia, and her past behind, and reinvent herself; so Essie becomes Victoria. Then come lessons, and lessons, and more lessons — until she is judged read ...more
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Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolde ...more

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