Gold Rush Girl

(2) 4-6 At the midpoint of the nineteenth century, thirteen-year-old Victoria Blaisdell endures the stifling existence of a proper young lady. Initially comfortable financially, Tory's family hits rock bottom when her father loses his job and decides to sail to the California gold fields to regain his fortune. Taking a line from her beloved Jane Eyre ("Your will shall decide your destiny"), Tory chooses to accompany Father and younger brother Jacob--as a stowaway, disguised as a boy. At this point, readers will have to suspend disbelief, for after two days at sea, Tory sheds her disguise but somehow travels undetected (only three other women are on board) for seven months. Upon their arrival in San Francisco (with its shockingly squalid, overcrowded living conditions), Father takes off for the gold fields, leaving Tory in charge of Jacob's care and responsible for finding work. She makes three friends: Thad, a young man from Maine; Señor Rosales, owner of a nearby restaurant; and Sam, an African American bugle player performing in the local saloons. Tory's self-liberation and her relationships with both Señor Rosales and Sam are tinged with twenty-first-century sensibilities but nonetheless underscore her spunk and independence. When a thug (or crimp, in the local vernacular) kidnaps Jacob to force him into maritime service, it's up to Tory, Thad, and Sam to find him. Readers are thrust into a rip-roaring adventure, filled with suspense and danger, and open-ended enough for a sequel.


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