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That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Contributor(s): Johnston, E. K.
ISBN: 1101994975     ISBN-13: 9781101994979
Publisher: Dutton Childrens Books
    OUR PRICE: $16.19  
Product Type: Hardcover
Published: October 2017
Annotation: Preparing for her arranged marriage and coronation in an alternate-universe near-future where the British Empire never fell, crown princess Victoria-Margaret, a descendent of Victoria I, embarks on a final summer filled with balls and freedom before forging an unusual bond with a geneticist's daughter and a shipping heir. Simultaneous eBook.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Love; Fiction.
Intersex people; Fiction.
Princesses; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: 2017010303
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 8.50" H x 6.00" W x 1.00" (1.00 lbs) 326 pages
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q72115
Reading Level: 8.3   Interest Level: Grades 9-12   Point Value: 19.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2018 #1)
In Johnston's alternate colonialist history, the modern-day British Empire is still vast and strong thanks to a decision Queen Victoria I once made to forego tradition and have her children marry suitors from all over the world. Over generations, the Empire's subjects have become a largely multiracial populace that values equality. Eighteen-year-old Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret will someday rule this Empire, but before she does, she has been granted one summer of anonymity and freedom. Under an assumed name she travels to Canada, where she befriends Helena Marcus and her beau, August Callaghan. Readers follow their three alternating perspectives as the characters navigate society balls, secrets, and romance. The love triangle that develops among them is unconventional (not only is there a royal, but one of them is intersex), but their fears, insecurities, and eventual growth as individuals are extremely relatable, making their journey all the more fascinating to follow. Chapter breaks contain letters, e-chat conversations, maps, and news clippings that further illuminate Johnston's creative vision. While her world-building isn't fully fleshed out, it certainly is unique, with its mix of Victorian customs (debut seasons, corsets) and advanced technology (the Computer, designed by the Church of the Empire, allows young people to find genetically suitable matches, much like a dating app); and Johnston thoughtfully addresses timely topics such as race, class, gender, history, and diplomacy. cynthia k. ritter Copyright 2017 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2017 August #2)

What if the British Empire never fell, and its traditions of debutante balls and royal matchmaking survived into the 21st century? In this vividly imagined alternate history, set in the near future, the Church of the Empire runs a DNA-matching service to ensure that mates are biologically compatible, both for commoners and for royals such as Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret. When the heir spends a summer living under an assumed name in Canada, an unexpected love triangle with newfound friends Helena and August illuminates the limitations of the system and of these young adults' self-conceptions. The introduction of an intersex character shines a spotlight on the individual's fear and confusion, and on the necessity of finding a safety net of understanding. The characters all have secrets, and the politeness inherent in Victorian attitudes will only conceal them for so long. It's a powerful and resonant story of compassion, love, and finding a way to fulfill obligations while maintaining one's identity. As with the dragon-infested modern world of Johnston's The Story of Owen, the thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and humor in this alternative Earth are rewarding on multiple levels. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Oct.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2017 August)

Gr 9 Up—Years from now, Victoria-Margaret will be the next Queen and continue the work her ancestor Victoria I started two centuries earlier: to strengthen the British Empire for all of its people, and promote genetic diversity and inter-Empire politics with an advantageous marriage. First, the crown princess will have a summer of freedom for her debut season in Toronto. Although her brown skin, epicanthic fold, and freckles make her easily recognizable as the current Queen's daughter, Margaret is able to disguise herself with the help of her natural hair and a civilian alias. Helena Marcus is looking forward to a quiet debut in New London and making her unspoken understanding with August Callaghan official. August wants nothing more, but hopes to delay their official engagement until he can see himself clear of the American pirates plaguing his Canadian and Hong Kong Chinese family's lumber business. When her mother's position as a placement geneticist brings Helena to the far more prestigious Toronto debut scene, she and Margaret strike up an immediate and easy friendship with a hint of flirtation. Spending the summer up north at the Marcus cottage near Lake Muskoka allows Margaret to see more of the Empire and to find her own place among the raucous Callaghan family. Helena's chemistry with both Margaret and August crackles despite being couched in Victorian manners and conventions. As Margaret, Helena, and August grow closer and learn more of one another's secrets, they realize they may be poised to help get everything they've long wanted. Johnston's standalone novel blends light science fiction elements in a near-future setting with the tone and style of a Victorian novel. Chapter headers including maps, society gossip pages, and correspondence serve to expand the detailed world-building and highlight the Empire's deliberate and thoughtful inclusivity (despite realistically damaging colonialism in the Empire's distant past). VERDICT A clever and self-aware novel set in a fascinating world, this witty and romantic story is a must-read.—Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.