*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Downstairs Girl
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: G. P. Putnam Son’s Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel 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, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.
I’m incredibly excited to share this book with you guys! The Downstairs Girl is a story of race and gender in America that is not often told. Jo Kuan, of Chinese descent, has grown up in Georgia while no real category ascribed to her. As a race that does not have a clearly defined “place” in her society, she falls into a grey area where she is not always treated as poorly as some of her friends whose darker skin marks them as a target for racist treatment; however, her race marks her as someone who does not have the freedoms and liberties that white skin permits during this time. At the same time, she is a woman, which is accompanied by its own severe limitations and set of rules. Jo is primed for a life where she may only rise so high and she is treated as such by most of those around her.
Jo is not a spirit to be broken. She finds light in the darkness and perseveres through trials and tribulations. She embraces struggle in her path, confronting adversity head on. She will not be slowed and does not left failure deter her from moving forward in whatever way she can. She’s a force to be reckoned with and those close to her recognize her ferocity. Jo is a completely admirable and inspiring protagonist. I couldn’t help but connect with her lively spirit and feel bolstered by the positive energy she infused into this story.
This book explores a time when changing race relations and gender rights are at the forefront of society’s agenda. It’s a book about changing perceptions and speaking out for what is good and what is right. Jo is a force to inspire new ideas and new beginnings and can be a role model to young readers in our own deeply flawed generation. Many of the issues she faces and discusses are still prevalent today. Perhaps many readers will see themselves in Jo and bring forth her fighting spirit.
I hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did. It’s a definite must-read for YA fans as summer comes to a close.