Maud Mary Flynn is an orphan. She’s also a liar. She hates Barbary Asylum where she doesn’t get to wash enough, the headmistress is strict, and the girls are annoying. So when Hyacinth Hawthorne turns up looking for a child, Maud will do anything–even be polite and run up the back stairs in her stocking feet every time there’s a caller. Maud is a “secret child” and no one must know about her. But when Maud learns exactly what she’s a secret for, even her lying skills might not carry her through…
I couldn’t put this book down. I knew I’d probably like it, having liked another of the author’s books and reading a review of this book by my friend at Nine Pages. This was the sort of book whose story captivated me and I regretted every time I had to put the book down.
The characters were brilliant. Maud is feisty and lovable. Her growth and development through the book was quite well done, and I enjoyed rooting for her affections to change and cheering as they did. She maintained her “sauce” throughout the book, but she wasn’t without emotions other than anger and mischievousness, either. Overall, well-rounded, likable, and defiant. I kept my fingers crossed for her happy ending.
The rest of the characters were an intriguing mix. I hated Hyacinth from the get-go; Judith and Victoria I could give or take most of the time, until the very end when the former became hated too; Mrs. Lambert was more or less unexpected at certain points, which made her surprising when her overall purpose wasn’t hard to guess. (This is a really tough book to review without spoilers!) Muffet, of course, was my favorite character of them all with her quick learning and big heart.
The one character I thought the book could do without? Samm’l. Samm’l is Maud’s long-lost brother who has a bit part I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t feel Maud needed the additional back story to show why she was the way she was; being an orphan is enough to do that. I don’t think he added anything to the “secret child” story. I don’t think Maud needed that extra push to be a bit more curious about her situation… in any case, the appearance of Samm’l didn’t detract from the story, it just didn’t add anything to it.
The story itself is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable with wonderful descriptions and a brilliant cast of characters. The pages will keep turning, and before long you’ll be looking at Goodreads wondering what else Laura Amy Schlitz has been writing. Recommended to all YA readers!