Gold Rush Woman by Avi
An independent young teenager is looking for adventure and finds maturity in Gold Rush Girl.
Gold Rush Girl by Avi. Candlewick, 2020, 306 pages
Reading level: Intermediate, 10-12 years
Recommended for: 10-14 years
Victoria Blaisdell, better known as Tory, grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, in comfortable circumstances. Before 1849, her greatest trial was her aunt Lavinia's constant criticism of her independent ways. But now father has lost his job and desperate need threatens the family. When a word comes from gold in distant California that is free for those who are enterprising enough to get it, Father sees the answer: go and get it. To say that he is a dreamer is an understatement. The man has a poor understanding of the reality beyond the numbers in a ledger. Tory's grip is only slightly better, because with the help of her little brother Jacob she stows away on the outgoing ship and leaves her father no choice but to take her with him.
But when they arrive in San Francisco, they're all struck by reality: a tent city built on a Wadden Sea. Father goes to the gold fields to make a claim and things look for Tory as soon as she finds a job and a new friend. She enjoys her independence, but a 14-year-old girl still has a lot to learn, and when her brother disappears, Tory learns the weight of responsibility.
Finding and saving Jacob seems to take more pages than it should, but there are many historical details that appeal to the reader. Avi, a prolific author of historical novels, uses San Francisco's "Rotten Row" – the literally hundreds of ships left in port when entire crews stormed the excavations. Fortunately, Gold Rush Girl is free from projections of contemporary themes and all characters seem appropriate for their time. Tor's independent character and preference for male clothing is not inappropriate and her growth in self-awareness is both credible and admirable.
Overall rating: 4.25 (of 5)
- Weltanschauung / moral value: 4. 5
- Artistic / literary value: 4
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