Book title: Currents
Author: Jane Petrlik Smolik
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Release date: September 2015
Format: ARC, 318 pages
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Charlesbridge!
This middle-grade historical novel follows three young girls living very different lives who are connected by one bottle that makes two journeys across the ocean.
It’s 1854 and eleven-year-old Bones is a slave on a Virginia plantation. When she finds her name in the slave-record book, she rips it out, rolls it up, and sets it free, corked inside a bottle alongside the carved peach pit heart her long-lost father made for her. Across the Atlantic on the Isle of Wight, motherless Lady Bess Kent and her sister discover Bones’s bottle half-buried on the beach. Leaving Bones’s name where it began and keeping the peach pit heart for herself, Bess hides her mother’s pearl-encrusted cross necklace in the bottles so her scheming stepmother, Elsie, can’t sell it off like she’s done with other family heirlooms. When Harry, a local stonemason’s son, takes the fall for Elsie’s thefts, Bess works with her seafaring friend, Chap, to help him escape. She gives the bottle to Harry and tells him to sell the cross. Back across the Atlantic in Boston, Mary Margaret Casey and her father are at the docks when Mary Margaret spies something shiny. Her father fishes it out of the water, and they use the cross to pay for a much needed doctor’s visit for Mary Margaret’s ailing sister. As Bess did, Mary Margaret leaves Bones’s name where it belongs. An epilogue returns briefly to each girl, completing the circle of the three unexpectedly interconnected lives.
Currents is a really lovely book that follows the lives of three completely different girls living in the 1800s: Bones, a slave on a Virginia plantation, Bess, a British Duke’s daughter, and Mary Margaret, an Irish immigrant living in Boston. I loved the idea of a “message in a bottle” being carried by the currents from one girl to the next. It was fascinating seeing how its contents and mystery and history affected each girl who found it.
This book is quite sadder/more serious than I expected it to be. A lot of bad things happen, and there are some pretty horrendously bad people our young heroines have to deal with. I liked how nothing was sugarcoated here. People get hurt, people get blamed, and there is a lot of discrimination regarding class and race. There is also quite a bit of historical information in Currents, which was delivered fairly obviously, but that didn’t seem too “textbook-like”.
Perhaps the only negative thing about Currents is its pacing. For each girl’s story to be roughly 100 pages (only 80 for Bones), I would have liked the beginnings of each story line to be a bit more fast-paced. When there is just so little time spent with each girl, each individual story needs to be engrossing from the beginning. It took a few chapters for me to start caring about each girl, particularly in Bones and Bess’s cases. (Mary Margaret’s story was probably my favorite.) This wasn’t a huge downfall at all, it was minor, and the slow build-up doesn’t detract from the novel overall, but it was something I did notice.
Currents is a sweet, quick read about three girls growing up and searching for their dreams and the freedom to be able to pursue those dreams. I was also thankful for the epilogue because I really needed closure and I got it, to some extent. I highly recommend Currents if you’re feeling nostalgic for some good ol’ middle grade historical fiction, reminiscent of those Dear America books I certainly devoured as a kid and pre-teen. ♦
Have you read Currents?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s the last historical fiction novel you read?
Or, what was the last book with multiple, intertwining story lines you read?
Also, did you ever read the Dear America books?
Comment below letting me know!
And, as always, happy reading!