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The Downstairs Girl

by Stacey Lee

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2371282,776 (3.94)4
"1890, Atlanta. By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel Caroline Payne, the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for 'the genteel Southern lady'"--

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» See also 4 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
After being dismissed from her job as a hat maker, Jo Kuan is forced into a job as a lady's maid. Her charge is difficult, cantankerous, and determined to make Jo uncomfortable. Jo and her adopted father, Old Gin, live in a hidden cellar. Above them lives the Bell's a newspaper family. When Jo learns that the newspaper is in trouble, she begins pinning an agony aunt column "Dear Miss Sweetie." Her irreverent columns, and challenges to society's normal quickly lands her in hot water, as people across the city try and uncover her identity.

I was pleased to discover a strong, female character, determined to make a difference in the world. I loved Jo's attitude and point of view. Although Jo was a strong character, a lot of the secondary characters were one dimensional and felt like caricatures. The plot itself was a bit predictable, and easily resolved. Overall, 3 out of 5 stars. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Oct 14, 2020 |
Above all, this is a story about determining your own self-worth and using your words and actions to make even the smallest of differences, which was a simple but strong message of encouragement that I appreciated. ( )
  littlebookjockey | Sep 15, 2020 |
I'm just so pleased that this book exists. I don't read much historical fiction, but I couldn't help but pick up another by Stacey Lee.

It's easy for people to underestimate Chinese-American Jo Kuan. In fact, in Gilded Age Atlanta, most people don't know what to make of her or her caretaker, Old Gin, except that they aren't deserving of the same respect as white people. But Jo is intelligent, thoughtful, and driven, and she finds her voice as anonymous advice columnist Miss Sweetie. As her words find a willing audience, Jo uncovers truths about the people around her, and the end result will leave nobody unchanged. Giving voice to overlooked members of our nation's history, this engaging, uplifting story is a brilliant example of intersectionality in YA.

This one had a much slower start than Under a Painted Sky, but the finale was well worth the wait. Jo was a clever and captivating narrator, and I actually miss her already. It was such a pleasure to watch Lee's finely crafted characters go about their lives that the plot actually sort of snuck up on me. I found myself drifting to the edge of my seat without even realizing it, until I just couldn't wait to see what happened in the end. I highly recommend this for fans of historical fiction, and character-driven stories.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to read in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  AnnaWaffles | Aug 28, 2020 |
Loved everything about this book! Even the end - no matter what anyone says lol. What great characters... all with great character! ( )
  nwieme | Mar 19, 2020 |
This was a very well-crafted YA book, which would also be suitable for adult readers. It had many layers to hold interest, and spoke about a different side to the early 20th Century of Reconstruction in the South. There is discussion of passing, of class, of power, the power of family, both direct and found. I really enjoyed it a great deal. ( )
  CatherineMarie | Feb 11, 2020 |
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"1890, Atlanta. By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel Caroline Payne, the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for 'the genteel Southern lady'"--

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