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Review of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    512 pp.    g
6/17    978-0-06-238280-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-238282-5    $9.99

Eighteen-year-old Monty, spoiled heir to a wealthy estate in eighteenth-century Britain, embarks on a year-long “Tour” of Europe, after which he will settle unhappily into respectable life. One social offense and an antiquities theft later, Monty and his companions (prickly little sister Felicity and lifelong best friend Percy, with whom Monty is hopelessly in love) are on the run from a power-hungry duke. When Monty discovers that Percy — whose social status as the mixed-race nephew of a wealthy landowner is already precarious — suffers from epilepsy and will be permanently committed to a sanitarium upon their return, Monty is determined to retrieve the alchemical panacea that his stolen artifact supposedly unlocks. Mayhem, adventure, and a swoon-worthy emotional roller-coaster of a romance ensue. Lee’s attention to issues of privilege in this setting, and the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender as embodied by the three travelers (and the compelling secondary characters who populate their travels, including a formerly enslaved crew of so-called pirates who have been denied the papers they need to conduct legal seafaring business) add dimension to the journey. At the center of all this, Monty is pitch-perfect as a yearning, self-destructive, oblivious jerk of a hero who inspires equal parts sympathy, frustration, and adoration from readers — as well as from Percy himself. A genre tribute, satire, and exemplar in one: trope-filled in the most gleeful way.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more in The Horn Book’s Pride Month series, click on the tag Pride 2017.

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Claire Gross About Claire Gross

Claire Gross is the youth librarian at the Egleston branch of the Boston Public Library and a former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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