Book Review: ‘The Downstairs Girl’

The Downstairs Girl” by Stacey Lee

Source: Book of the Month YA

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction


By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

I enjoy reading historical fiction because I find it’s a much more interesting way to learn a bit of history. I particularly enjoy reading about bits of history I’m not familiar with at all. The Downstairs Girl focuses on the period during the Reconstruction Era. After the (black) slaves were freed, Planation owners brought in Chinese people to take over the the labor. It was fascinating to read about the time period from an ‘insiders’ perspective.

Racism and sexism are in full force in the South but even within certain groups, there was discrimination. I would have thought the Suffragettes would have been happy to have help from any woman that wanted to help but clearly that wasn’t the case.

As much as I enjoyed the story, I did have to over look some of the elements that were mighty convenient. I’m sure there were people who believed racism/sexism was wrong but it was every convenient that Jo had so many in her immediate circle.

I enjoyed Jo’s voice. She’s a strong woman that wants to help those she loves. Her advice as Miss Sweetie was a hoot!

Great read! Stacey Lee is now on my radar as an author to keep an eye for historical fiction.

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