Author: Connie Hertzberg Mayo
Publisher: She Writes Press
Published Date: October 13th 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★.5
In Boston at the turn of the century, two indigent adolescent boys, Aidan and Charles, are brought together by a common desire: earning enough money each day to feed themselves (and, in Aidan’s case, his mother and sister). Together, they achieve this goal by robbing drunken sailors in the brothel district of the city—until one night they accidently kill their victim. To avoid arrest, they leave the city, conning their way into an island school that only accepts boys with squeaky-clean pasts. But the pressure of keeping their stories straight soon fractures their friendship—and when the cracks begin to show, they find out that they are not as safe from the law as they had hoped.
"I'm simply saying that a boy is not defined by just one thing that he has done." "But they are criminals," Mary said with some confusion. "No, Mary they are boys who committed crimes. They are not even adults who have committed crimes. They have not yet become the persons they will be as adults for the rest of their lives."
I’ve had this book on my kindle app for around 8 months now, and I’ve been putting it up because I thought that was going to be a sad story. It’s not. While it does have sad moments, and times where you wish that no child had to be in these situations, you also see how strong these boys are and despite having so many things against them end up making a place for themselves in this world.
This story is set in Boston 1889 and for the most part follows to young boys
Charles (12) is an orphan who has dropped out of school, and is avoiding being sent to a reform school or jail again. He works the streets anyway he can in order to get money for food, clothing and occasionally a place to sleep.
Aidan (11) has also had to stop going to school and instead finds ways to make money on the streets of Boston as well in order to provide food and shelter for his mom and little sister.
It also shows small segments of dialogue between Charles and Mary Bradley who ran the school.
One day Charles and Aidan meet in a pile of furniture (Apparently that was somewhat of a common thing back then) which leads into a fight and then the boys decide to become friends with one each other. As they learn a little bit about one another and see how certain things they have in common, and how they both are just trying to stay alive. While Aidan wants them to work together, Charles thinks this is a terrible idea and then he realizes how maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a little help occasionally and agrees to it. But one night while rolling some drunks it all goes wrong and they know they have to get away from Boston. With the help of one of Charles friends they are sent to Boston’s Farm School. While this is a reform school, it isn’t awful to the students, and instead the boys learn life skills, schooling and self-government.
At the reform school the boys lie almost constantly. Which is easy for Charles but Aidan really struggles with this and even ends up telling someone. At the reform school, we see the boys become better friends, have a falling out and then become friends again. We see how different they can be when they aren’t just trying to survive.
But then they get found out and all of their lies start falling apart with no way for Charles to try and talk their way out of it.
When I got to this part of the book, I knew I had to finish it and find out what happened to them before I did anything else. It did not disappoint. It was an amazing ending that wrapped up nicely and we even got to briefly see what they were like as adults.
While Charles and Mary Bradley in this story are real, as well as the Farm School being real as well. Charles and Aidan are fictional, but I do wonder how many of the real boys that lived there have somewhat similar stories to this one.
This is a young adult book, but I think it can be enjoyed by adults as well. I can't wait to see if Mayo writes other books in the future as this was her debut novel. Though I'm not sure she could top this one.
*Does contain some rude language and description of nudity occasionally.
I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Here is the book trailer for it as well that gives a little bit more information about it as well as photos that are shown in the book.