GOLD RUSH GIRL, by Avi, Candlewick Press

Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mud-caked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an unintended — and perilous — adventure to save her brother.

Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence and adventure, and she yearns to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold! But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away on the ship. Though San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Until one day, when Father is in the gold fields, her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped. And so Tory is spurred on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships. Beloved storyteller Avi is at the top of his form as he ushers us back to an extraordinary time of hope and risk, brought to life by a heroine readers will cheer for. Spot-on details and high suspense make this a vivid, absorbing historical adventure.

Out March 2020

320 Pages


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

At first the main character’s personality got on my nerves with her defiance and disrespect toward her parents. She is a child and acts like there should be no boundaries in place to protect her especially during a time when dangers were everywhere for a young girl. I struggled with this for some time as a parent who has raised girls, and wondered at the message the character’s behavior would give readers of her age. Especially since she seemed allowed to get away with this without consequences.

We have to remember the era. During this time, there was no “spare the rod, spoil the child” following as it today. If we were to credit the writer with a true historical fiction, then this child would not be getting away with her behaviors unpunished. It is obvious for readership eyes (10-14 years), that some of the historical fiction aspects had been altered. Unfortunately, this created a very unbelievable character. With that said, I think the writer was trying to prepare the readers for what the main character would face further on in the story, by making her this way at the beginning. This is a risk that may turn readers off.

The historical facts shown about San Francisco during the Gold Rush was fascinating especially the author’s use of details of the saloons and back-alley life. Details used for the ships of the time were also well-done. The idea of a cheeky, naïve teen on the dark streets of a rowdy and dangerous time was cleverly written without a parental cringe aspect.

If you can get past the beginning (the most important part of the book), pretend that it’s normal for a teen girl of this era to run back alleys and stowaway on sailing vessels while pretending to be a boy… then this may be quite the book for you. If you’re a parent of girls, read something else.

Brilliantly done, challenging as a parent to read, but obviously something that should be read and enjoyed by middle-graders, not chapter bookers.

I gave it:

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