Monday, March 19, 2012

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

Title: Threads and Flames
Author: Esther Friesner
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA, Historical
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: It's 1910, and thirteen-year-old Raisa has just traveled alone from a small Polish shtetl all the way to New York City. It's overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and even dangerous, especially when she discovers that her sister has disappeared and she must now fend for herself. She finds work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sewing bodices on the popular shirtwaists. Raisa makes friends and even-dare she admit it?- falls in love. But then 1911 dawns, and one March day a spark ignites in the factory. One of the city's most harrowing tragedies unfolds, and Raisa's life is forever changed. . . .

One hundred years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, this moving young adult novel gives life to the tragedy and hope of this transformative event in American history.

Review:  There is always something magical, for me, about reading a historical book. If done correctly, I am immediately transported into a different era, and feel the story within my bones. "Threads and Flames" was so captivating that I could hardly stop thinking about what I had read - long after the pages of the book were closed.

The book tells the fictionalized account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire - an unfortunate event in which 146 young workers lost their lives. The story begins with Raisa recovering from a long illness back in her shetl in Poland. The first 100 pages are devoted strictly to setup and character introduction. Although the book doesn't really pick up until Raisa starts her journey to the U.S., I truly didn't feel like the story dragged at all here.

Raisa's journey was really interesting to read about. Although Friesner took some liberties when it came to explaining the immigration process, I felt that the reader was given just the perfect amount of information in order to interest, yet not bog down the story.

As Raisa slowly starts to make her way in New York City, we are introduced to many characters that quickly become a major part of the story. I really felt that Friesner did a great job portraying the climate of early 1900's New York City - the hardships, stereotypes, and struggles were perfectly explained in a way that was suitable for a YA reader, sans the sugarcoating.

Overall, there were just a few small complaints I had when it came to the pacing of the story, as well as the conclusion. The pacing seemed a little disjointed to me. Certain parts that seemed to play little importance in the story were dragged out, and others - such as the fire itself - seemed to happen far too quickly. The ending was also...a little too perfect for my liking. Everything was wrapped up in a neat little package that seemed a bit unbelievable.

Truly, I am glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone, especially history buffs such as myself.

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