City of Orphans by Avi
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: September 6th 2011
Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Age Range: Mid-Grade
Book Source: Audiobook from Library
Synopsis (via Goodreads): The streets of 1893 New York are full of life: crowded, filthy, dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year- old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the newsies on the lower East Side. With Bruno's boys in fierce pursuit, Maks discovers Willa, a strange girl who lives alone in an alley. It is she, stick in hand, who fights off the Plug Uglies--but further dangers await. Maks must find a way to free his sister Emma from The Tombs, the city jail where she has been imprisoned for stealing a watch at the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks, believing her innocent, has only four days to prove it. Fortunately, there is Bartleby Donck, the eccentric lawyer (among other employments) to guide Maks and Willa in the art of detection. Against a backdrop alive with the sights and sounds of tenement New York, Maks, as boy detective, must confront a teeming world of wealth and crime, while struggling against powerful forces threatening new immigrants and the fabric of family love.
City of Orphans’ story starts off well; building up the story setting and getting you quickly wrapped up in the main character’s life. You learn the ins and outs of the world for Maks, a young newsie making only eight cents a day selling papers on the streets of New York. The story had a few plot twists and some action to keep the reader entertained. The overall pace of the story felt slow at times, but I was curious enough in regards to the plot to hang on during the slow parts; which was rewarded with a dramatic and fast paced ending. The crime solving elements were fun, if a little predictable at times. The book had great world building – I feel like we really understood what it was like for immigrants living in New York City in the late 1800’s. A strength in this novel was the character building. Maks was a great lead character; loyal and brave, and we were quickly introduced more individuals with unique traits and personalities. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into each of their worlds. I was content with the ending of this book; the story wrapped up with an epilogue of sorts to let you know what happens to all of the characters you have come to know so well. Something I thought was interesting about this story is that you aren’t really ever sure who the narrator is, if it is Maks or one of his brothers in the family. Overall I enjoyed City of Orphans! A great book showing the strength of family and friends with honorable characters that you will come to love. Be sure to check it out sometime!
“People are freer in America. But there are more tears.”
-Avi, City of Orphans