Set in Victorian England this novel explores the oppression of the working class during the industrial revolution. I read pretty extensively in this historical period and this tale seems to be well researched and authentic.
Emmaline, in her early teens, has to become the head of the household for her disabled, drug-addicted mother and younger deaf brother. It is the fairly "typical" Victorian tale of a poor but talented young girl (woman) who has to find her way in a world at time that is most hostile to her. It is sort of mid-way on the scale of Jane Eyre to Angela's Ashes.
There are adventures, and kind souls to counterbalance some of the grim realities of life. Emmaline fights hard to provide for her mother and brother, to find her brother after he is lost to the streets of London, and to return the family to some stable, healthy life.
The story is believable and well told. Holman has been recognized by several awards for the book including, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, the McNally Robinson Book for Young People, Notable Books -> YALSA Best Books for Young Adults -> 2003" id="linkTeens->NotableBooks->YALSABestBooksforYoungAdults->2003"> and the Mr. Christie's Book Awardl.