Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Review: Forgiven by Janet Fox (Speak, 2011)

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

In her second novel, Janet Fox returns to one of the secondary characters from her debut novel, Faithful, to craft an equally absorbing saga about a strong young girl at the turn of the 20th century.  Kula Baker has been raised by her outlaw father in the rough American West around Yellowstone, but now that she's seventeen and "of age," he sends her off to live in more civilized Bozeman.  Kula takes a position as a servant to Mrs. Gale, a photographer and a woman of independent means.  Just as she's getting used to her new life, her pa shows up, frantically telling Kula she must travel to San Francisco to retrieve a mysterious box from the unknown Ty Wong.  Before she knows it, her pa's been arrested, and will surely hang unless she can clear his name. 

Soon she's in San Francisco, where the streets were a "bedlam of willy-nilly confusion," filled with horseless carriages, fashionable women, boys running wild, lots of horses, and most amazing of all, trolleys!  Through the good graces of Mrs. Gale's sister-in-law, Kula finds herself in a world of luxury, glamour, and artists.  In her quest to recover her pa's box, she also finds herself  not knowing who she should trust--the kind David Wong, who seems to always be in the right place to rescue Kula from trouble, or the handsome and dapper Will Henderson, whose family is part of the San Francisco elite and who seems like the perfect catch. Will either one of them be the man of Kula's dreams?

But things are not as they seem in glamorous San Francisco--Kula discovers an area of Chinatown where men traffic in little girls, who are cruelly kept as sex slaves. Kula is determined to save any of these girls she can from their miserable life.  Little does she know that San Francisco is about to collapse--in a huge earthquake, followed by fires throughout the city.  Will all of San Francisco burn, and can Kula still save her father, her friends--and herself?

In Kula, Fox has created another strong and memorable character who will draw teenage girls into her story, a page-turner of a tale filled with mystery, romance, and danger.  The character evolves throughout the novel, beginning as a girl with a chip on her shoulder, and ending by opening her heart to love, rebirth and hope.  Fox also recreates the San Francisco of before and after the earthquake in a compelling way, encompassing both the glamorous and the sordid sides of the West Coast's biggest city.  Girls who are looking for romantic historical fiction will surely enjoy this new release. 

Please note:  Sadly, trafficking and exploitation of children is still an international scandal.  
In conjunction with her book's release, Janet Fox will donate a portion of the proceeds from FORGIVEN to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. To learn more about what you can do to help agencies that actively fight the exploitation and trafficking of children, visit the following websites:

1 comment:

jan godown annino said...

I am so happy to see this great, deserved attention for the 2nd from Janet Fox.
Kula is totally a mesmerizing young woman.
I also loved discovering the relationship she had with Dad - as fraught as it was.
On a note of heft, the historical fiction trafficking undercurrent must be well known to those in the West, but it was a shocker to me.
I've enjoyed tours of San Fransisco but didn't remember a mention of this.
Kudos to Fourth Musketeer for this post & to the author, Janet Fox.

disclosure: I'm a Janet Fox fan.