Monday, April 4, 2011


The Year We Were Famous - Carole Estby Dagg
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
# of pages:
243 (ARC)
Published by Clarion, Harcourt
Releases TODAY!
With their family home facing foreclosure, seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, need to raise a lot of money fast—no easy feat for two women in 1896. Helga wants to tackle the problem with her usual loud and flashy style, while Clara favors a less showy approach. Together they come up with a plan to walk the 4,600 miles from Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City—and if they can do it in only seven months, a publisher has agreed to give them $10,000. Based on the true story of the author’s great-aunt and great-grandmother, this is a fast-paced historical adventure that sets the drama of Around the World in Eighty Days against an American backdrop during the time of the suffragist movement, the 1896 presidential campaign, and the changing perception of “a woman’s place” in society.

Fabulous YA historical fiction! The Year We Were Famous has a lot to offer readers - fun, original story (that just so happens to be a *true story*), thoroughly interesting characters, and highly intriguing chunks of American history and geography. The story is based on the real-life experiences of the author's great-grandmother and great-aunt, who, in 1896, trekked clear across the country (Washington state to NYC) by themselves. The book is set against the backdrop of the American suffragette movement and the famous Bryan-McKinley presidential campaigns.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began this story - I knew it was a historical fiction, but I wasn't sure how much history would play a part in the story. The further I got into the story, the more riveting it became! I admit to having a Google Images browser up for every place the characters mentioned. I seriously cannot imagine walking over lava fields in Idaho, crossing the Snake River, or braving through blizzards, much less doing it in the late 19th century, with no hotel reservations or ATM machines or, you know, Mapquest. Clara was an especially endearing character to follow, and her mom will charm and entertain you with her wit and determination, though I did find her a little strong and kind of overwhelming, and she seemed almost out-of-place, out-of-setting with her "New Woman" speeches. But still, both characters were well-rounded, and their interactions were entertaining and heart-felt.
I do wish the story could have been a little longer. I know it's not feasible to give each day/location out of their seven-month excursion its own chapter, but Estby Dagg has such a knack for bringing not only history but rich American places to life, I was left feeling full but still wanting more! The passages dealing with the Suffrage movement were thoroughly interesting, and I especially liked them because they reminded me of what I learned in my American West class last year - for example, that women were way more successful getting the vote in western states and territories than in the more "civilized" east, and that Wyoming was the first to grant women the right to vote (Utah had given them the vote, but that was edited out of their constitution when they were admitted to statehood, as a matter of fact).

If you consider yourself even a slight fan of Historical Fiction, or if you just like to keep up with the newest, coolest YA releases, you'll not want to miss The Year We Were Famous!

Final Rating

Check out my interview with the author!
Click here to view the trailer!
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