Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Saving Savannah

Rate this book
The story of an African-American girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s America. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., Savannah is lucky. Feeling suffocated by the structure of society, Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published January 14, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Tonya Bolden

70 books176 followers
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. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.

Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

(source; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biogr...)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
100 (14%)
4 stars
235 (33%)
3 stars
294 (42%)
2 stars
52 (7%)
1 star
12 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
April 11, 2021
I think this book has a lot to offer and really is an important story. It deals with race relations in the US after WW1. You follow the daughter of a prominent African American family and see her grappling with the difference in societal standing and how other people like her are treated just because they are "common folk." You got to see a lot of prominent Black historical figures and their contributions. It was a really interesting to see them in the story and then have more information in the author's note at the end. It's set during the Red Summer in D.C. which is something I had never heard of before but the author provided a lot of factual information in the author's note and I did my own research too. It was a terribly violent time where white supremacist terrorism ran rampant in numerous cities in the States. This story presents a lot of information and I'm glad for what it taught me and exposed me too, but there is really no plot. My personal preference is that a story has either a stronger plot or stronger characters, but this one had neither. Savannah provided a lens to see everything through, but it wasn't much of a story and she wasn't developed enough for me to really fall in love with the story. I also didn't care much for the writing style. It is VERY much a tell don't show narrative, which worked as far as the informative nature of the story but it also made it so it took a really long time for me to figure out what I was reading about and for things to get going, as much as they did, which wasn't much. I do still think this is an important read for sure and it's so nice to see more YA historical fictions with POC main characters because the genre has a ways to go with that. But I just personally felt like I wanted more from the story in the way of storytelling.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
January 3, 2020
The increase in the number of YA historical novels featuring teens of color at the center, and more specifically, girls of color at the center, is making me so happy to see. Bolden, who is a long-time writer for young people, brings readers to 1919 Washington DC in this story about an upper class black girl who wants nothing more than to make something interesting of her life.

Savannah knows she’s privileged in her wealth. But she’s worried she’ll never do something important or powerful in her life. Her brother has moved to New York City and has a photography shop, and she’s bored by her long-time friend and neighbor Yolande. When the housekeeper’s daughter steps in to clean the Riddle’s home, Savannah forms a quick bond with her, and it’s through her she finds her way to a school on the other side of town that helps less-privileged girls gain a solid education. Here she volunteers, but more, it’s here she meets someone who introduces her to the concepts of radicalism, socialism, and anarchy.

It’s 1919 and while the Great War is over, and the Spanish Influenza is waning, race riots are heating up. Savannah, now pushing herself outside her comfortable area in DC, finds herself seeing and being too-close-for-comfort to experiences that put her life and future on the line. After one particularly close call, she expects to be reemed out by her mother and father. And it’s here when Savannah learns about the incredible young life her mother had and how, even though it doesn’t look like it, Savannah’s mother longed for -- and found -- a purpose and meaning to her life. This ultimately helps Savannah understand what it is she wants to do herself.

The third-person narration is refreshing in YA, and the exploration of such a specific historical moment through the eyes of a privileged Black girl is one that kept me hooked. Savannah is keenly aware of the politics going on around her, including the Anthony Amendment and the protest happening by Alice Paul and other white feminists to secure suffrage. Savannah is keen to the fact it’s for white women and that that couldn’t be what her deeper purpose is in terms of doing something important with her life.

The author’s note in this one is a must-read, as it really offers a picture of this historical moment in a perspective I’ve not seen before. Too often, we only hear about the stories relating to poor and hurting Black people. This story, as well as those stories from which Bolden was inspired, are a reminder of how deep and wide the Black experience was throughout all historical periods.
Profile Image for Rukky.
206 reviews43 followers
October 3, 2020
I don't like the writing.

I just don't. Things like

Tall, thin crystal vases topped with white plumes streaming pearls served as sentinel, centerpiece at each of the sea of tables.


He, hair salt and pepper well beyond his temples, in tuxedo with tails, silver vest, high-stand wing-tip collared shirt, top hat.


She paced instead.

The minutes a weight. Time a tease.

It's not that they're bad, but these sentences that aren't complete are bugging the life out of me!!! I just don't like it and it brings me out of reading every time the sentence just ends without being complete.

Savannah is a really semi-annoying and semi-okay MC. I kind of really hated her whole better than thou attitude when she was looking down on all the other rich people saying they were shallow etc. BUT she never really attempts to talk to them and see if they aren't actually so shallow. She's honestly really judgemental.

Rest of the book. Eh. It was good I guess, and I did like the topics it covered. I wish Yolande had a better shine in the book though, especially since there were some chapters from her POV. Idk why they were there when it didn't really expand to show how Yolande truly is or anything. Idk, that was just weird.

Overall, it wasn't a bad book, but I didn't love it.

maybe full review to come.
Profile Image for Tia.
777 reviews258 followers
April 10, 2020
I read along as I listened to the audio. It was fantastic! Completely immersed in this book. Loved the family and friend dynamic. The history in it is priceless. I’m ordering a copy for my home library today. I have my beautiful copy. It is stunning in person.

I highly recommend. I will now go check out Tonya's backlist of books.

I was given an ARC of this book from Bloombury YA via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Lindsey.
160 reviews13 followers
June 28, 2020
Cool and important concept but lots of underdeveloped elements. I am surprised this is marketed as YA when it’s more of a middle grade as far as style and level of detail.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,071 reviews219 followers
January 12, 2020
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Review can also be found here at Booked J.

As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

Such a beautiful story. I'm in awe. Saving Savannah is one of those novels that reminds me why I've always adored a good piece of historical fiction. You can't go wrong with historically based novels when they are portrayed like Saving Savannah. It is simply breathtaking. (And so is that cover! Wow!) Tonya Bolden is here to show us how it's done and you definitely should be listening.

Admittedly, the era in which Saving Savannah is set within, isn't one I typically reach for. That would be why the synopsis alone piqued my interest. It's not a story we see told often enough. But, it's a story that we needed to have in the world. You can certainly feel the ache and echo of the history that is covered throughout Saving Savannah. Not a single page goes by where time isn't used wisely.

As for the characters, the importance and development is all there. Savannah herself is a character that you won't soon forget. Watching as she explores life outside of her privileged upbringing and growing into the young women she was always meant to be was an absolute pleasure. As she is able to learn the life and times of her era, we, too, learn.

Saving Savannah is many things: well researched, well paced, full of life, rich with history and absolutely stunning to read. Tonya Bolden's writing is almost hypnotic in quality; the type of writing that you could easily get lost in. Grab yourself a warm drink and curl up to this novel--you won't regret it.
Profile Image for Lucie.
606 reviews233 followers
March 8, 2020
3.5 stars

TW: Racially motivated violence & assault
*Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I felt the synopsis made me expect different things from the story which meant I wasn't quite prepared for certain events. This book takes place during the Red Summer in D.C. and we do see part of the violence that happened during that time. I appreciated that because it spurred me onto do more research about that because honestly I'd never heard of the Red Summer before. I also appreciated seeing a story about wealthier black people in historical fiction. The author is right that we ignore that even though a lot of Black people were, not ALL of them were poor and destitute during this time and I liked how she showed their contributions through the story and in her authors note.

The way the book was written felt... odd. I'm not sure how exactly to describe it, but something about it made the book hard to read, and therefore made it hard for me to get into the story especially at the beginning. This lessens as the story goes on and as the story needs to give more descriptions.

This story basically has no plot, which I'm not one to complain about as I tend to like meandering stories. However, for stories like that I think the characters need to be a bit stronger than they were. The main character Savannah was interesting and precocious, but she was stubborn and mean to her supposed best friend, Yolande. Yolande's character never feels fully realized or developed which was disappointing. I wasn't sure what the point of her was. Lloyd and Nell were catalysts for certain things but they weren't actually the prominent within the story. Savannah apparently ends a romance at the beginning of the book, but we hear almost nothing about him.

Overall I thought the idea of the story was interesting and I did really like how the story ended up but everything just felt too underdeveloped for me.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
3,005 reviews1,481 followers
August 6, 2020

#BlackLivesMatter collection

Sequel to Inventing Victoria

In 1919 Washington, DC, Savannah Riddle has been raised in luxury as an elite "negro" woman, one of W.E.B. DuBois's "Talented Tenth." Savannah is fed up with the endless round of fancy tea parties, embroidery and mindless chatter. She wants to DO something with her life. If only her mother weren't so overbearing, so cautious, so full of mustn't and ought nots! Yvonne Holloway, Savannah's neighbor and childhood best friend is hurt by Savannah's sudden defection. Why would she want to leave their world? It's safe and comfortable. The Great War is over, the Spanish Influenza is waning and the government is cracking down on people who speak out against democracy. Sure they have to contend with the color line but Savannah's mother says people in D.C. are not so barbaric as in the deep south. Savannah is frustrated with her friend's lack of empathy and Yvonne's hateful words towards those who have neither money nor light enough skin. Taking matters into her own hands, Savannah learns her cleaning lady's daughter helps out at Nannie Bouroughs's training school for girls. Savannah is eager to help out, help the girls better themselves and DO something to support her people. Savannah is not thrilled to be cleaning and wedding at first but she knows it's a test to see if she's sincere and is determined to persevere, if only to prove to that infuriating Lloyd she is not "Miss Ting", a mindless high society girl amusing herself for the sake of something to do. Lloyd, from the West Indies, dreams of a new world where workers will rise up and demand and receive better working conditions, fair wages and where "negroes" will be given the treatment they deserve. Lloyd helps open Savannah's eyes to how the "other half lives." Savannah is excited by the changes in the air but in the summer of 1919, white people are not taking too kindly to the ideas Lloyd proposes. In the summer of 1919 white posses are chasing down and lynching "negroes" and anarchists are letting off bombs left and right. When the danger comes too close to home, Savannah is forced to confront the tough issues of race and class in America.

Holy cow is this book timely! It's spooky and sad how little has changed in 100 years. In 1919 some Black people want to work with the system to change things and others want to rise up and overthrow the system. There are lynchings, race riots and anarchist bombs. There's also a side of DC I have never seen and didn't really know anything about. The DC of Savannah's time is a little closer to the one I remember but I remember the OTHER HALF being Black and Latinx and the elite being white. In the DC of Savannah's time, before the Harlem Renaissance, DC was where it was at. There was a thriving elite Black community in Northwest DC, not far from an old stomping ground, along the U Street Corridor. Here, the Blacks were business owners, lawyers, teachers, activists, socialites and other wealthy elites! Wikipedia states "Until the 1920s, when it was overtaken by Harlem, the U Street Corridor was home to the nation's largest urban African American community.[12] The area was home to the Industrial Bank, the city's oldest African American-owned bank,[13] and to hundreds of black-owned and black-friendly businesses, churches, theaters, gyms, and other community spaces. Natives of the area included jazz musician Duke Ellington, opera singer Lillian Evanti, surgeon Charles R. Drew, and law professor Charles Hamilton Houston.[13]"

Victoria from the previous book is now a wife and mother. She's rather boring and dull. The club she helped found was folded into another association and taken over by younger women. She seems to be comfortable within the elite world and worked things out with Wyatt so they are happily married. I hated how complacent she was on the surface. How she pushed her daughter to be a part of that world without teaching her daughter how to help their people. She had one son, Charlie, and was told she probably would never have another child. After lots of praying, Savannah was born. I think that, coupled with her traumatic childhood, makes Victoria overprotective and smothering. Also, the city isn't as safe for Blacks as it was in her youth. Actually, Victoria reminded me a lot of my own mom who doesn't have the excuses Victoria has to be so smothering. Wyatt is a kind and loving father but he likes order and everything in their place. Thinking of stepping outside the world he is now a part of, is inconceivable to him. He worked hard to get there, why would he want to go back? Their son Charlie left in a huff because his parents mapped out his future and he had different dreams. All we know of him comes from Savannah. She's close to her big brother and is sympathetic to his hopes and dreams.

At first Savannah came across as kind of bratty. She's a typical teenage rebel, longing to be an adult and make her own decisions. I wondered why Savannah wasn't more sympathetic to her mother until it became clear that Savannah has NO IDEA and believes the fictional story "Victoria" has told everyone, including her children, about her past. Savannah has never met Miss Clara or Dorcas! She met Binah once because Victoria returned to her first friend and helped Binah out. Binah seems to be deceased now. It isn't clear if that is true or if Victoria cut face-to-face ties when she realized Savannah was old enough to start asking questions. My heart went out to Victoria for having to hide her origins and who she really is. As I got to know Savannah better, I sympathized with her more. She's feisty and determined, just like her mother, but softer. I can relate to Savannah's desire to break away from the world where she was raised, to live her own life on her own terms. Savannah is the heroine I was hoping for in Victoria. Savannah actually goes out and does something with her life and helps people. It's a different time and Savannah is exposed to different cultures. Victoria was trying to survive with a new and better life. I'd like to see Savannah end up in Harlem and see where HER daughter ends up- integrating schools in the 50s perhaps?

Some of the story is told from the point-of-view of Savannah's friend Yolande. Yolande is the daughter of Claire and her husband. Unlike Claire, Yolande doesn't dream of college and studying the classics. She's content with her pampered life and longs for the boys to look at her the way they look at Savannah. She's not brave and bold like Savannah and Savannah doesn't understand her friend at first and isn't a good friend to Yolande. Yolande seems more sheltered and naïve than Savannah. Savannah has an older brother in Harlem and she reads more balanced news sources than her friend. At first I didn't like Yolande, especially after the nasty things she says, but then it becomes clear she has bad anxiety and something happens that causes PTSD.

Other supporting characters include Lloyd, a young man from St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His dialect is sometimes hard to understand because he has an accent. He is a firebrand and has socialist leanings with some early Black Power tendencies. I'm not sure I really like him. I agree with his socialist leanings but I think he's a little more than. I worried he might become a modern day Nat Turner but nothing as bad as that happened. He's just not the type to keep his head down and out of trouble. He stands up for what he believes in and that's great. At first he's suspicious of Savannah and then he teases her for being an upper class girl. I think once he gets to know her better, he sees how sincere she is. Thankfully, this does not turn into a romance.

Another major influence on Savannah is her uncle Madison. Uncle Madison is a photographer. He owns his own business and takes pictures of Society events and the elite Black people of Washington, DC. He's cheerful, charming and like a second brother to Savannah. He encourages her to help him in the shop and use her brain. He understands her passion for art and for helping people.

Other supporting characters include Nella, Lloyd's cousin and the daughter of Miss Gertie, the Riddles' cleaning lady. Nella tries to know her place when she's in the Riddle home but outside the home, she's making changes to better her life and help others like her. I really admire her. She's a good role model for Savannah. Then there's Bim, a cheerful, cheeky street kid who runs messages and endears himself to Savannah. He's cute and charming. A whole host of real life figures are mentioned or appear briefly in the novel.

The history behind the story was more interesting than the novel, as with Inventing Victoria, but this one was better written. I got caught up in the events of 1919. Even knowing some of what was going to happen, I was curious to see what was going to happen to the characters. There's still a lot of telling and being inside Savannah and Yolande's heads. That's not a great way to tell a story, especially one aimed at teens. The actions comes late in the story. Still, this story is very relevant and Americans should read it and look up the sources in the back of the book. Black Lives Matter and history matters too.

Content warning:
If you live in an urban area and have been awake for the past few months, I don't think there's much in this book that would be a surprise or a shock. It's very, very timely.
Profile Image for Rachel.
367 reviews3 followers
February 12, 2020
*Big thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review*

Prior to reading this book I'm sad to say that I knew very little about the events or people in this book. Though the story and specifics are fiction, the author drew from very real events, historic figures, organizations, and politics, much of which is discussed in the author's note at the end of the book. I definitely have more reading to do about this time in history and I'm glad this book has made me aware of that.

For as much as I enjoyed learning about a time in history I didn't really know about, I didn't love the book itself. My main issue is with the writing style. It felt very choppy, abrupt, and incomplete. I started the book thinking I accidentally skipped ahead a few chapters or requested another sequel without having read book one. I did get used to the writing style after awhile, but it's not really for me. This book definitely felt like more of a testament to 1919 and the world at this time more than a story of a girl discovering who she is, which wasn't what I was expecting given the summary.

Full review: https://picturethisliteraturecom.word...
Profile Image for Sacha.
1,013 reviews
January 14, 2020
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC! I’ll post a review in late December in advance of the January release.

Updated 1/14/20:

I rate this work at 3.5 stars.

It's great, short historical fiction, but the character reads so much younger than her age. While I see that this fact reflects her naivete, I also found it distracting throughout the novel and expect that YA readers would, too. The character only knows her own experience, and while she becomes - quickly - sympathetic to the experiences of others, I found it frustrating that her mother has the surprise origin story. It almost feels like trauma has to be in your blood and familial history for you to have that keen sense of understanding. The relationship between Yolande and Savannah never fully develops in a meaningful way, which I also found frustrating.

If I were to recommend this work to students, I'd strongly suggest that they start with the author's note. For me, that added a lot of richness to the text that was otherwise missing altogether. I found this to be an interesting read but not particularly memorable or impacting in the way that most historical fiction is for me.
Profile Image for Laura.
64 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2020
I wasn't sure that I was going to finish this title. The beginning of the story was a bit dull, and not until Savannah ventures out of her upscale neighborhood does it begin to pick up steam.

I enjoyed that this story gave voice to an affluent young black girl after the first world war, and was able to highlight a part of history that I hadn't yet encountered in YA fiction.

I am stuck on the fact that the MC's best friend is basically a mop that has been dressed up in human clothing - she has no personality, backstory, agency or growth. She is apparently important enough to be a perspective character (although all she seems to do is pearl clutch, shout racist tropes, and opine about how she can't function unless she has the MC glued to her hip) and then she is conveniently retired to staring blankly out windows for the rest of the story where she can't get in the way of the MC finding her true calling. Her existence did nothing to change or further the story, so I'm not sure why she existed at all. I'm offended on her behalf.

I don't believe the ARC mentioned this anywhere, but this book is actually a companion to Tonya Bolden's Inventing Victoria. In a not so twisty twist, Savannah finds out that her mother had a very different life from the one she was raised in. It seems as though you could read these books on their own or in either order and not get lost.

Despite my earlier tirade, I find myself unable to rate this lower because the latter half of the book did actually pull me in. Seeing Savannah come into herself as a character within the historical DC powder keg was interesting to read. For me, the intriguing history is the thing that saves this book. The plot and characterization were really lacking.
Profile Image for Savannah (forest_reader).
598 reviews37 followers
December 5, 2019
Saving Savannah takes a close look at America in 1919, particularly with African American social changes. Savannah is a high-born African American struggling to find her place among her race and her high society. Tonya Bolden writes in a lyrical prose full of style and experimentation, which made it both fun to read and confusing at times.

The plot is slow in Saving Savannah. We follow Savannah closely through her thought processes and mini adventures (which are few). In fact, nothing much happens until the last 60% of the book. I also found little character development. In fact, most of the story elements were missing or underwhelming, and I wonder if this is because the history of this time overshadowed everything else. This book's purpose seems to be educating teens and young adults about the social issues in this time rather than telling a thrilling story. This is fine, but not what I was expecting. I would have appreciated more story.

Writing Aesthetic/Style: 3
Plot/Movement: 2
Character Development: 2
Overall: 2

Thank you Bloomsbury Publishing for the ARC! This book will be published January 14, 2020.
Profile Image for Read In Colour.
284 reviews449 followers
January 16, 2020
The beautiful cover is what initially drew me in, but the story line kept me. I loved that the author gave readers authentic DC along with authentic historical events of that time. It's rare to read a story with a black protagonist from an upper class background set in the early 1900s. Juxtaposing Savannah and her best friend reminds readers that Savannah had the option to bury her head in the sand and turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the lower and middle class, but chose to be an active participant in uplifting others.

Though Saving Savannah is listed as juvenile fiction, I wouldn't hesitate to introduce it to adult readers who could benefit from learning history in this setting.
Profile Image for Phoenix (Books with Wings).
385 reviews82 followers
June 18, 2020
(4.7) This book was really good! It was really interesting to learn about this period of time in history because it isn't learned about much but it is, of course, important nonetheless. I found both the very beginning and the very end a little confusing, but other than that this was a very good that is important to read during this time.
Profile Image for Esmeralda_L+L.
359 reviews13 followers
December 10, 2020
Although I didn't fall in love with either the writing or characters, I learned a great deal about a small slice of history I previously knew nothing about, major points for unusual setting and historical focus.

All in all, I enjoyed Saving Savannah, I simply did not love it.
Profile Image for Dapper Daughter.
26 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2020
this historical fiction was set in 1919 as the red summer approaches, the begging was a little rough to get through but once she meets Lloyd the 'common boy' the story really evolves. i like all the historical aspects in what was happening around her and they talked about women suffrage the color line and W.E.B Du Bois and it was. just a quite interesting story once you got into it. i loved the small child character Bim he was a little poor kid and very sweet. for kids you should definitely read it, learn and enjoy the fact of who's perspective it is and seeing the class divide even though color. Adults, i read this in 3 days and you probably read faster depending on your time but this is a quick read it 240 pages and its just a fun story/ way of reading history. you should read it. i'm not a big historical fiction person but i enjoyed this one. i recommend this as a quick read its good.
Profile Image for Monica Kim | Musings of Monica .
508 reviews535 followers
October 7, 2020
I haven’t read much YA, let alone historical YA novels this year, but Tonya Bolden’s “Saving Savannah” caught my attention with its intriguing synopsis & stunning cover. It was quite different from all the YA books I’ve read before. This was my first novel by Bolden, and I’ve actually never heard of her before this book, which is ridiculous given that she’s an award-winning author who’s authored & co-authored over 40 books! This is an historical YA novel about a teen from an upper-class African American family in Washington, D.C. who gets involved with radical social movements, set in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I. This was an educational and important novel, but the writing of in itself was a struggle to get through.
Savannah Riddle, a daughter of an upper-class African American family in Washington D.C, lives a sheltered, but privileged life. Her father owns a successful insurance business, her parents are engaged with various charities & are respected in the community, and they support the growing political movement to give women the right to vote. But lately, she’s grown embarrassed and feeling suffocated by the high-class society — all the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow women. She’s starting to feel like there’s should be more to life but can’t quite figure out what it us until she befriends the daughter of her family's cleaning lady. Through her, Savannah learns about a village school that educates girls from poor backgrounds from all over the world. Against her parent’s will, Savannah volunteers there and meets Lloyd, a West Indian handyman who introduces her to socialism and opens Savannah's eyes to how the “other half” lives. Feeling inspired by Lloyd’s activism and to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures & socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more to Lloyd's world and starts to wonder what her role in the world is.
This is an incredibly important novel, and I’ve learned so much as many actual historical events are covered in the book; but the writing was challenging to get through, almost read like a rough draft. And it’s a YA novel, but it reads like a children’s book and main character seems much younger than a 17 year-old, it’s really weird to describe. For some reason, I was expecting a sophisticated storytelling, but that wasn’t the case. And author was too focused on educating about the social issues than telling a story about social issues, if that makes any sense. This novel had potential to be something extraordinary but there were way too many missing and/or underdeveloped elements & characters, which is just too bad. Set those aside, there were lot to learn, historically — women's rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings. And few descriptions of violence in the last one-third of the book — bombings by anarchists, lynchings of black people, police brutality, and violent mobs. It is very sad that so much of what’s covered in this novel that is set in early 20th century has so much relevancy & similarities to what is still happening in our country today. If you can get pass the underdeveloped characters & writing, there’s lot to learn from this book. 🤓✌️📖
Profile Image for Fatima A. Alsaif.
162 reviews7 followers
February 11, 2022
The concept is great and events take place during major events in history. However, I felt lost and disconnected most of the time while reading, mostly because the plot lacked development. Even though I do not regularly read YA, I had high hopes to connect and enjoy this book. But I was a bit disappointed. On the other hand, I appreciated that events in the book took place in 1919 in Washington D.C and during Red Summer riots. And honestly, I would never heard of the Washington race riot of 1919 without taking the time to read this book. This motivated me to read more about such historical event and learn more.

Lastly, the book is not bad at all. But I don’t think I’m the right/targeted audience.
Profile Image for Fieke.
336 reviews13 followers
June 30, 2020
This book takes place in 1919 in a time people are dealing with the end of the Spanish flu and having racism riots. It is extremely sad to be able to compare it to the current situation and find so many similarities.
Savannah is a great main character who becomes very aware of her own privilege as a poc who has enough money. It also has some interesting feminism themes and look at the beautiful cover! I also enjoyed the family and friendship dynamics. It is very interesting to know that it is inspired by real people and events.

I just struggled with how slow this story is as it seems like not a lot happens and it takes a while for the story to pick up.
Profile Image for Christie.
1,554 reviews48 followers
April 2, 2021
When Mother surprised her with the outfit, Savannah was momentarily enchanted.

Savannah is a privileged African-American girl living a sheltered life in Washington, D.C. in 1919. Here family's wealth and status have afforded her many opportunities denied to other young women of her race. Savannah has started to feel a bit suffocated by the society she lives in and through a friendship with her family's young cleaner, Nell, she begins to realize how others are living in her city and becomes inspired to fight for change.

This is the first book I have read that discusses the class divisions among African-Americans in the early part of the 20th century. Most books focusing on the African-American experience during this time period focus on those living in poverty, with good reason, but it was interesting to see another perspective. The story also explores colorism in a way I haven't seen often in YA fiction. Savannah is light-skinned, as are most of the people of her class, and her friends look down on darker-skinned people, especially immigrants from the Caribbean. With the book being set in 1919, there are a lot of parallels with our current time period. The city is just emerging from the flu pandemic, so there is a lot of talk about Lysol and things getting back to normal. This is also what is known as the Red Summer, when there were several race-related protests and violent encounters throughout American cities (sort of like the summer of 2020).

I did have some problems with the structure of the book though. The writing is almost poetic, which is beautiful, but it is also written in a stream of consciousness style that makes it a bit hard to follow at times (especially while listening on audio). The descriptions of all of Savannah's clothes also were a bit tedious after awhile. I would have appreciated a bit more of a straight-forward style of writing.

I do recommend this book since it has a unique perspective of the early 20th century that I hadn't encountered before. If you are interested in historical fiction, African-American history, and/or women's history then I would give it a try.

CW: animal cruelty/death, guns, hate group, police brutality, racist language, violence (shooting, throwing objects, beatings)
Profile Image for Rebekkah.
39 reviews
April 7, 2021
I absolutely loved Inventing Victoria, but this was a bit more intense and the story and writing style felt less unique (since it’s a sequel, of sorts), so I didn’t love this one, but I did really enjoy it. However, the plot description is deceiving! The main character, Savannah, was already familiar with the suffrage (not suffragette) movement through her mother, and Nella (not Nell) isn’t the one who introduces Savannah to the socialist movement.
Profile Image for Tala.
174 reviews39 followers
August 2, 2020
4.5 stars
This was delightful. A very interesting premise with a unique snappy writing style; it brought to light a world I might have otherwise overlooked. I would have loved for this to be longer, not because I thought it ended poorly, but because it was set in a period far too interesting and untalked about that more would have been a pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
979 reviews
July 22, 2020
Having recently read Martin Sandler’s 1919, I was delighted to discover Savannah Riddle, a 17 year old upper class African American girl, living in Washington DC, finding out who she really wants to be in the year 1919. Race riots, women’s suffrage, labor unions and prohibition are all beginning to boil and Savannah finds herself right in the middle of it all. Beautiful writing. Perfectly paced. Fleshed out characters. I will read all of Tonya Bolden’s books.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
523 reviews25 followers
June 15, 2020
3.5/5. This book follows Savannah Riddle as she struggles to find her place in society. The book reviews black American history during the red summer (1919). Overall quick read.
Profile Image for Natasha Brown.
55 reviews5 followers
December 18, 2019
The story of an African-American girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s America. As a daughter of an upper-class African American family in Washington D.C., Savannah is lucky. Feeling suffocated by the structure of society, Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.

Saving Savannah is the portrayal of a young African-American woman who lives post-WWI. is a valuable portrayal of affluent African-American society and of post-WWI life. Told through the eyes of an affluent 17-year-old Savannah Riddle, who has experienced a privileged life, which is much different than other African Americans during this time period. Savannah becomes disgusted by her privilege, and ventures out on her own, much to the dismay of her parents, who do not want her to become a photographer in Harlem.

Soon Savannah befriends the cleaning woman’s daughter, Nella, and Nella’s cousin Lloyd, who is described as a socialist-leaning activist and begins to volunteer at the all-black National Training School for Women and Girls. Savannah's journey takes her deep into African American history and heritage and as she begins to open her eyes to the world around her, Savannah eventually becomes a "radical".

I do feel as if there were things missing in this particular story. Savannah's character I felt took an extreme turn, however, in the historical context, I feel that it was a much-needed turn. Bolden uses Savannah as a guide and through her eyes, we are able to garner respect for the struggle and how many people and families sacrificed during that time (and during the many many years since then) to make a better life for themselves.

I was provided this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.