I love YA fiction, there’s no two ways about it. But what I love more than YA fiction, is YA fiction that I read as an adult and completely forget that both the characters and audience are teens. This is that book. Now add in the fact that it’s set in prohibition era New York, dripping with drama, and packed to gills with both character building and action and you’ve got this reviewer dithering on forever.
Title: The Canary Club
Author: Sherry D. Ficklin
Publisher: Crimson Tree Publishing
Expected Publication Date: October 19, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teens & YA
Themes: Family, Murder, Great Depression, Prohibition
Features: Book Club Discussion Guide
My Rating: 5/ 5
“Bad Luck” Benny is a fella from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.
Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.
Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.
If I had to pick only one book to read this fall it would be The Canary Club. There is no review that I can write that can share the pure joy I got from reading this beauty. Benny and Masie were so likeable and well written that I quickly forgot that I was reading a YA novel, and the mature content that this tale covers (rape, teen delinquency, abusive parents, sexual desire, etc.) really gives credit to interests and maturity levels of it’s YA audience. Without question, I think that this is one of those rare titles that effortlessly defies categorization and can be easily enjoyed by adults and teen readers alike.
I was enraptured with the New York prohibition era setting. Everything from the buildings to the clothing and makeup was described in beautiful detail, but the writing was such that these details never once felt cumbersome. The alternation between Masie’s and Benny’s points of view worked incredibly well, and showcased how there are always two sides to every story and that things aren’t always what they seem. The balance between action and character building kept the pace quick and engaging while breathing life into some incredibly realistic and well rounded characters.
While I enjoyed the fact that Benny could be an ex-con and a good person, it was Masie’s story that really stole the show. It was refreshing to see an abused character, and her abuser, presented so honestly. From Dutch’s violent outbursts to his gift giving, and from Masie’s need to protect her father to her feelings of repression and need to escape, all fit perfectly together. It reminded me how often I take for granted the choices I have been allowed to make regarding the course of my own life including education, romantic partner, and field of employment – I can only hope that it inspires the same degree of introspection from all it’s readers.
Now, on the to life of crime that pulls our two heroes together – Prohibition bootlegging! Crime families, banned booze, hitmen with personal vendettas, and covering up murder all makes for an excellent plot. I really enjoyed descriptions of the clubs, the grandeur of the mob family lifestyle, and the inclusion of iconic Jazz songs in the story. Now add in a forbidden romance and you get quite the complicated climax. I wasn’t expecting the ending to be so exciting and detailed, but it was so dang good. For anyone who loves crime and suspense thrillers I have no doubt that you will be pleased with how this one comes together. It was so good I read it twice… in the same night. I have no regrets.
Would I recommend this book? YES! A million times over yes. I don’t care if you read YA, are a YA reader, or simply enjoy historical fiction and a little excitement this book is sure to please! I am so glad that The Canary Club comes with a book club discussion guide too, because it is worth talking about and hits on some really big and really important topics. Librarian, add this one to your YA collections this fall, and parents, you might but this one for your book loving teens – but I can guarantee that you’re going to read it (and love it) too!