Jan 27, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Title: A Mad, Wicked Folly
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publishing Date: January 23, 2014
Pages/Format: 448, ARC

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Initial Reaction of Book in One Word: MORE?!

History has never been my favorite subject. I like certain time periods, but for the most part it bores me. (Sorry, history teachers, buffs, and fans!) That said, I was a little hesitant going into A Mad, Wicked Folly--due to my rocky relationship with history and lack of historical fiction read, I thought I might get bored with the book. Thankfully, none of that matters here: A Mad, Wicked Folly lacked boredom, made me want to read more historical fiction, and was one good book.

Thinking about it, I can't find any complaints or issues with this book. While I may have peeked ahead a few times, it wasn't really because of the book. I just wanted to see when a certain character would be in the book! (I like certain characters *cough* love interests *cough* to be on the pages at all times.) So even though I was slightly frustrated when a certain character wouldn't make an appearance for dozens of pages (which isn't even a complaint or downgrade of the book; it's just something that drives the romantic in me crazy), I think that was about it. Something about this book was just GOOD.

A large part of what made A Mad, Wicked Folly such a great novel was the writing. Sharon Biggs Waller wrote the story wonderfully, with a style and voice that matched the 1909 era. I mean, it wasn't Shakespeare and hath not doth this and all that, but it wasn't contemporary writing, and there were some words and phrases--like "Thursday week" and "knickerbockers" (which makes me want to giggle)--that were obviously from a different time period, for I didn't know what they meant. (Also not a complaint, just an ode to the writing style.) In fact, I don't know if this book would've been so successful if it wasn't written the way it was. And I will most definitely be reading the future works of Sharon Biggs Waller (so hurry up and make another book, Sharon!).

A Mad, Wicked Folly's set in 1909 London, a time where women are objects, men are extremely superior, and the women's suffragette movement is starting up. When Vicky Darling poses nude in an art class (outside of school) and is caught, she gets expelled from finishing school and is sent back home to see if she can fix her reputation. All Vicky wants is to go to college for art (art is her thing, her dream, what she does), but it's not fit for a lady of her class to do such a thing, so her parents try to keep art from her. In trying to find a way to keep art, her oxygen, in her life, she becomes a part of the suffragette movement, finds new art inspiration, meets Police Constable William Fletcher, makes sacrifices, and tries to be who she wants to be, despite society's standards.

Vicky was a likeable, strongheaded POV/MC who tried her hardest to succeed and fulfill her dreams. It was hard to be a woman during that time period (and for many, many years after) and do what you wanted to do. Class, level, and society were extremely important, and you didn't want to fall below the ranks of the high and mighty. But even with all that, Vicky continued to persevere and try to make her dreams come true, even giving up parts of her life to do so. That takes determination, and that's part of what made her such a strong character. I didn't mind Freddy, her somewhat-of-an-ally brother, but I wasn't too fond of her stuffy parents. I liked her friends, but I could not stand her puppet-to-his-father fiance (or his father, for that matter). I did, however, fancy her muse-of-sorts, Will. I wanted more and more of him. (When I say I want more with this book, it's because I want more romance, for I can't get enough of it.) He was just who needed Vicky needed in her life, and he was totally swoony and wonderful and we can please have a sequel with lots and lots of Will? Each character was their own character, if that makes sense, and most seemed like they had purpose to the story.

A big part of this novel revolves around the rights of women. While this is a fictional novel, it has bits and pieces of non-fiction mixed into it, which was great. We see how women are treated of various classes, and by strangers, acquaintances, and family. Really, it's just ridiculous. Women couldn't do crap in 1909. Why, women shouldn't vote, because they'll get ideas, and they shouldn't have an opinion! It was horrid how women, who simply wanted a say in things and to be treated as equals, were treated. (Being force-fed through a tube really did happen, people.) But this book accomplished weaving history with a fictional story, and it was well done. (Also, boys, watch how you treat us women. Without us, you've got nothing. And you'll get nothing, too.)

While I'm not sure if I loved A Mad, Wicked Folly, I do have lots of like for it. It was composed of great writing, true (and hard) history, and even some romance, which I always like. This folly-free novel (please tell me I used that word correctly) has so many aspects that come together to make a high-quality, good piece of YA literature. And while the ending wasn't my faaavorite (it was somewhat open-ended, at least for the romance-loving me, and I just wanted mooorrreee), it was still good and worked for the book and the story. I'm sure I'm forgetting something and that this review isn't the best description for what I think of this book, so I'll just leave it at this: I'd suggest you read this book, no matter who you are or what genre you usually read, and to not do so would be a mad, wicked folly.

Did I like it? Yes!
Did I love it? Not quite(?), but it was very good.
Would I reread it? Possibly!
Would I purchase it? I may have looked it up after finishing to see how much it cost because I wanted to buy it (too bad I'm broke).
Who would I recommend it to? Everyone! Especially fans of historical fiction and girl power. (And even those who are not, for I'm not big on historical fiction, and I thought this was great.)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and that in no way sways my opinion of the book.


  1. Glad you liked it! I've been thinking of reading more historical fiction this year and this one sounds like one I might like.

  2. Historical fiction is one of my favorites, so I am really look forward to this one. Especially after your review! Thanks!

  3. Historical romances are hit and miss with me, mainly because I love romance--and, it's just hard to do when women and men were "tainted" if they kissed. So sad because I do like looking at the culture of history. I'm glad you liked this one.

    YA Sisterhood

  4. I've been wanting to read this once since I first heard about it and I'm so excited you liked it!! I adore books that take place in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I know that time period isn't for everyone and the fact that you, someone who isn't a fan, still really liked the book shows that it was done really well. I so can't wait to read this!!!

    Emily from Blue-Eyed Bibliophile


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