Book Review: ‘A School for Unusual Girls’ by Kathleen Baldwin

22238184Because of A School for Unusual Girls, which is set in the Regency era, I finally found out what the Regency era in the United Kingdom is. The Regency is the period from 1811 to 1820, when King George III was deemed unfit to rule, and his son ruled as his proxy instead. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) However, aside from causing me to learn a historical term, A School for Unusual Girls evoked no emotions. What could’ve turned out as an enjoyable, smart, and slick piece of historical fiction turned out to be far-fetched, unrelentingly cheesy work closer to a pointless romance than to a marvelous adventure.

In 1814, Napoleon has been exiled on Elba, and Europe–Britain especially–is in shambles. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. After all, girls who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. At least, that is what the girls’ parents are told. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje has plans for the young ladies. Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is one such young lady. Having no intention to be turned into a marriageable miss, she plans to escape. That is, until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads or their hearts.

Like countless other young adult books, A School for Unusual Girls ends up being exactly what it tries not to be, a simpering romance. Though A School for Unusual Girls masquerades as a feminist historical masterpiece, the incredibly instant insta-love, the lack of historical accuracy, and the ridiculously far-fetched behaviors of the characters reveal the truth that A School for Unusual Girls falls short of what the novel could or should be. For instance, Georgiana’s remarkable chemistry ability is more of a plot device gifted by the author rather than a believable advancement of the novel.

As for Georgiana herself, she’s simply not a compelling character. Her immature personality reeks of an author who doesn’t quite understand how to portray sixteen year-olds. Most teenagers–even ones from the Regency era–don’t pride themselves on being smart but then act clueless and naive the rest of the time. Though it’s been a few months since I read the book, I’m still peeved at Georgiana and her “I hate my red hair” attitude. Anne Shirley might have had that mindset at age twelve, but that doesn’t mean that a sixteen year-old would think about it for half a novel.

Usually when I write an unfavorable review, I’m also able to find a redeeming quality, but in the case of A School for Unusual Girls, I can’t find a thing. There are better novels to read, but feel free to spend your time with Georgiana and her red hair if you wish.

Rating: 3 out of 10
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 19th, 2015)
Length: 352 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9780765376008
Source: Netgalley

Valerie is sixteen. She attends a boarding school near Boston, where she writes, reads, and attempts to be a studious student. She's too lazy to write the rest of this bio, so follow her on Twitter @torquoiseworld because shameless self-promotion is alive and thriving!
  • Sui Generis

    Too bad you didn’t like it. I found it okay though, but I agree with you, there are a lot of better books to read.