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What does having a pedigree, bells and even the Titantic have to do with a school called Blythewood? Everything, but there’s more! And unbeknownst to Avaline Hall, a supposed non-pedigreed and impoverished girl, she will embark on a journey to explore the dark world of Blythewood.

"Packed with all the elements that make up an awesome mystery and so much more, BLYTHEWOOD is a fantastical story of one’s girl’s ultimate search for identity."

Avaline, better known as Ava, lives with her mother during a time when single parenting, particularly by a woman, was considered unacceptable in American Victorian society. Even worse, a strange encounter that her mother has with a mysterious man, wearing an Inverness cape, eventually leads to her death. Prior to her mother’s death, Ava shares with her about a bell ringing in her head at the time of the encounter. Her mother explains to Ava that since she is a chime child she will hear bells to warn her of danger. Ava is curious to learn more about her unique gift, but her mother won't divulge the importance of being a chime child, let alone who her father was.

With the passing of her mother, Ava has no choice but to seek employment. Finding a sweatshop factory position as a seamstress at the Triangle Factory, her only solace is the small friendships that she made. But her time there ends abruptly when the factory goes up in flames soon after the mysterious man with the Inverness cape shows up in search of Ava. Signaling danger once again in her head, the same bell that went off during her mother’s fateful encounter prompts her to escape. The all-consuming fire takes the lives of her friends. Ava is able to escape but unfortunately becomes committed in an asylum.

Desperately trying to figure a getaway, Ava is surprised when a woman suddenly appears in her room and through another escape, takes her to Ava’s wealthy grandmother’s mansion. In a matter of a few days, Ava is prepped for her next adventure: attending Blythewood, her mother’s alma mater --- or so she thinks. Before leaving, she is told that her mother was expelled, but the details to her expulsion remained a mystery. And though she can’t understand how she could be accepted into this prestigious finishing school for girls, considering her background, Ava settles in her mind that she will solve the mystery behind her mother; and to be sure, her sleuthing uncovers much more than she could ever imagine.

Packed with all the elements that make up an awesome mystery and so much more, BLYTHEWOOD is a fantastical story of one’s girl’s ultimate search for identity. Goodman has an incredible ability to create well-developed, true-to-life characters and to incorporate them in a real time period laced with real events, such as the Triangle Factory and the Titantic, within a meticulously designed plot. Readers, if you love Harry Potter, you will love this book. Even if you’re a stranger to the Harry Potter series, you must read BLYTHEWOOD. I guarantee that once you get started, you will have a difficult time putting it down.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on November 4, 2013

by Carol Goodman