This novel provides an insider’s look at a fascinating period of history through the eyes of a fictional teen narrator. Sixteen-year-old Prudence Galewski goes against gender and class restrictions of her day and gets a job as a secretary in the New York Department of Health and Sanitation. Soon she is accompanying her supervisor on an exciting investigation into the case of Mary Mallon, a perfectly healthy cook who mysteriously seems to be infecting her employers with deadly typhoid fever.
Historical fiction can sometimes be dry, dull or overburdened with details. This story is gripping, fast-paced and emotionally satisfying. Prudence is an especially likeable main character, full of passion and curiosity about science and medicine. In a day and age where women in America can be and do just about anything they choose, it is interesting to read such a well-drawn account of a time when a woman’s educational and career choices were much more narrow. The fast-moving text and abundance of illustrations make this a great pick for reluctant readers who have an historical fiction assignment.
-Amanda Coppedge Bosky