The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale ~ 336 pages ~ published April 26, 2022 by Berkley Books
Fearless reporter Nellie Bly will stop at nothing to chase down stories that expose injustices against women—even if it comes at the risk of her own life and freedom—in this exciting novel inspired by the true story of one remarkable woman.
In 1887 New York City, Nellie Bly has ambitions beyond writing for the ladies pages, but all the editors on Newspaper Row think women are too emotional, respectable and delicate to do the job. But then the New York World challenges her to an assignment she’d be mad to accept and mad to refuse: go undercover as a patient at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women.
For months, rumors have been swirling about deplorable conditions at Blackwell’s, but no reporter can get in—that is, until Nellie feigns insanity, gets committed and attempts to survive ten days in the madhouse. Inside, she discovers horrors beyond comprehension. It’s an investigation that could make her career—if she can get out to tell it before two rival reporters scoop her story.
What I Thought:
*I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Berkley Books for this ARC!*
Before reading this book I knew hardly anything about Nellie Bly. I knew that she went undercover in an insane asylum for ten days and then helped jumpstart reform, but that was really it. This was a fun look at the process of getting herself committed, and then getting back out again.
Overall, I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book. I thought that the author did a great job including facts without making it feel like a textbook. I could absolutely envision myself at Blackwell’s, which is not a place I ever hope to be, that’s for sure! I also liked how we were able to learn a little bit about Nellie’s personal history as well. It helped to make her feel more relatable as a character.
I will say, I had a hard time determining if this book was intended for an adult audience or YA. The whole time I was reading, I thought it was aimed at a YA audience. However, when I finished reading, I noticed that it was being marketed as an adult book. I felt that the writing style lent itself well to YA audiences, but what do I know?
Speaking of the writing style, this was actually my main hang-up with this book. I felt like the author used turns of phrase that felt more modern than the late 1800s setting. The narration also felt more informal than I was anticipating for this kind of novel. I also did not terribly enjoy the parts of the book that were from Colton and Marian’s points of view. But, that is just personal preference. The plot points that were revealed in their parts were very important, but I would have preferred to stay in Nellie’s point of view throughout.
I really did enjoy the main story. I was horrified by the conditions at Blackwell’s and in awe of what Nellie went through in order to make a difference. It made me want to pick up her book, and also learn more about her! If you are interested in historical fiction, especially late 19th century New York, then this is a fun book to pick up!
I gave The Mad Girls of New York 3.5 Stars!
Are you interested in learning more about this book/series? Check out the links below!
How much do you know about Nellie Bly? Are you a fan of historical fiction? Let’s chat in the comments!
Love and happy reading,