Author: Amy Carol Reeves. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Flux. ISBN: 9780738730721.
Annotation: After her mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Arabella “Abbie” Sharp leaves her home in Dublin to live with her wealthy grandmother, Lady Westfield, in the Kensington neighborhood of London. In an effort to get her granddaughter to appreciate her new life of privilege, Lady Westfield volunteers Abbie to work at the women’s hospital in Whitechapel. Abbie finds that she enjoys tending to the poverty stricken residents of the East End, but her new found love of medicine is cut short when Jack the Ripper begins terrorizing the dark streets surrounding the hospital.
Personal thoughts: As I have said before, I am always ready to pounce on any novels that feature the brutal if intriguing Jack the Ripper case, so when I heard about Ripper I had to pick it up. I am also a fan of historical fiction, so I was able to enjoy Amy Carol Reeves’ story from both angles. Her knowledge and love of the time period is clear, and I definitely found some subtle and not-so-subtle references to classic novels that, hopefully, teen readers can pick up on as well. Although I found the supernatural components as well as the requisite love-triangle to somewhat detract from what I was really interested in, I think most teen readers will enjoy these aspects of the story, especially since so many young adult novels include them. I would easily recommend this book to a reader who wants historical fiction with a twist. I look forward to reading Renegade when it is released in 2013.
Plot summary: After her mother’s sudden death from dysentery, seventeen-year-old Arabella “Abbie” Sharp leaves the gritty streets of 1888 Dublin to live with her wealthy grandmother, Lady Westfield, in the well-to-do London neighborhood of Kensington. Before she was born, Lady Westfield disowned Abbie’s mother for eloping with a poor Frenchman, but now that Abbie has returned to her mother’s former privileged life, her grandmother is determined to ensure that Abbie doesn’t follow in her mother’s footsteps. In an effort to make her granddaughter appreciate her luxurious if dull new surroundings, Lady Westfield volunteers Abbie to work with family friend Dr. Bartlett at the women’s hospital in the impoverished Whitechapel neighborhood. Soon after beginning her work there, Abbie discovers a natural love of medicine and a genuine enjoyment of helping the poverty-stricken women of the East End. Her love of working in the hospital is brief, however, when Jack the Ripper begins his brutal killing spree, murdering women who were recently discharged from the hospital’s care. Like everyone, Abbie is terrified by the savage nature of the crimes, but she soon realizes that she and the Ripper have a connection: strange visions that show the Ripper’s victims just before their deaths. What is the link between Abbie, the Ripper and the Whitechapel Hospital, and can she discover it in time to save her own life?
Review: In her debut novel, author and 19th century British literature expert Amy Carol Reeves brings one of history’s most terrifying figures to life in Ripper. Although not the first young adult novel in recent years to feature Jack the Ripper, Abbie Sharp’s story is one of many layers in which the infamous murderer is just another component of a larger mystery. Abbie herself is a very likable character, trying to reconcile her new life of corsets and tea parties with the knife throwing skills and street smarts she picked up in Dublin. Her devotion and compassion for the patients she finds herself caring for at the Whitechapel Hospital is very believable, and will hopefully prompt readers to research more into what life was like for women living in poverty in the 19th century. Ripper fans will find some familiar faces, as Abbie meets and befriends several victims before they are brutally slain. The paranormal aspects of the story, from Abbie’s psychic visions to the increasingly obvious supernatural nature of the crimes, will also appeal to readers who want something more than just a simple historical fiction novel. As with all young adult novels, it seems, there is also a romance in the form of a love triangle between Abbie and two young physicians at the hospital. Since Ripper is the first book in a series, the love triangle will undoubtedly continue in the second installment, Renegade, which is set to be released in April 2013. Overall, Ripper proves to be an entertaining historical fiction novel that both Jack the Ripper fans and those not well acquainted with the killer can enjoy.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey, Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury.
Themes: Jack the Ripper, murder, mystery, conspiracy, secret societies, orphans, London, Victorian era.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from VOYA, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.
Series Information: First novel in Ripper series, second novel, Renegade, set to be released April 2013.
- Were you familiar with Jack the Ripper before reading the novel? What did you learn about him?
- Why do you think Abbie has such a hard time adjusting to life in Kensington?
- Would you want to work at the Whitechapel Hospital? Why or why not?
- How would you explain Abbie’s visions?
- Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel, Renegade?