Book Review: The Downstairs Girl

September 4, 2020


The Downstairs Girl is about Chinese-American gal Jo, who is simply trying to find a way to make ends meet. But her gender and her race make it difficult, especially living as she does in Atlanta in the late 1800s where people like her being vocal is frowned upon. She finds an outlet for her voice by taking on the mantle of Miss Sweetie, a pseudonym she uses to write an advice column for a local paper. But the circumstances of her new job, her life and the growing need for change in this period are all coming together to upend life as Jo knows it. 

I’ve always admired the way Stacey Lee writes diverse historical YA, especially because she writes from the Asian perspective set against different time periods in American history. The Downstairs Girl is one of her more ambitious works, in my opinion, as there are so many different things that Lee incorporates into this tale. I appreciated the fact that this narrative provided a unique look at this time period through a female Asian-American lens. And I really liked that the heart of the story is about Jo discovering and embracing her own voice. That's something I think a lot of readers will relate to, as I know that was certainly the case for me.

Unfortunately, it did feel like Lee was trying to do a little too much with the number of plot threads she wove in. As a result, the story felt a little messy (and wrapped up too abruptly, in my opinion). Even with the elements I really clicked with, I didn't end up loving The Downstairs Girl as much as I'd expected to.

Pub Info: August 13, 2019 by Putnam | Add It on Goodreads | Buy the Book!

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