by Kathleen Baldwin
Georgiana burns down her father’s stable, and is promptly sent away to Miss Stranje ‘s school to be turned into a proper young lady. While Georgiana’s greeted with what appears to be torture, prompting an escape attempt, she soon learns the school is a front for much more. All of the girl’s in Miss Stranje’s house are exceptional. Soon Georgiana is being pulled in over her head with attractive lords and Napoleonic plots. A School for Unusual Girls starts off a little Northanger Abbey, and ends like a YA version of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series.
While we got a good glimpse at the girls in this novel, I want to get to know them more. I admit when I originally read the summary of the book I was expecting female friendships a la A Great and Terrible Beauty or even the His Fair Assassins trilogy. That’s not where this is yet, but it has the potential to get there. I needed more time to establish myself into Miss Stranje’s school, and the girls in it. We got no sense of what normal. Additionally, while there a hints to some of the girl’s talents, I don’t feel like I know them. Tess does a good job of standing out, but some of the other girl’s need an opportunity to shine as well. Give me more of them. Additionally, I’m not convinced I understand the rules of the world. Georgiana is rooted in science, but others seem to have sorts of premonition.
One thing that did really bother me in the novel was the pretense of Madame Cho. She struck me as a somewhat offensive Asian stereotype in her lack of development. I thought for sure she would interact with the girls more and I would be put to ease, but she just sat in the corner acting as chaperone.
I do love Napoleonic spy novels, so this was good fun, even if the antagonist did not feel very developed. The stakes of the second half of the novel seem rooted in how to mess up Georgiana’s relationship more than international affairs. I would like to see all of this developed more. But I did enjoy Georgiana and Sebastian’s relationship. While it drifted a bit toward melodrama at the end, I have hopes that action in further installments will help curtail this. And in terms of relationships, I’d really like to see more of Tess and Lord Ravencross.
For the first novel in a series A School for Unusual Girls does a good job at compelling me, but I’m going to need more from the next installment to keep engaged with Georgiana and crew.
Thank you to net galley and Macmillan-Tor for an advanced reading copy of this novel, which comes out May 19th, in exchange for an honest review.