VOYA Magazine Review - Convictions

Reviewed by: Charla Hollingsworth

Silverthorne, Judith. Convictions. Coteau Books, 2016. 216p. $16.95 Trade pb. 978-1-55050-652-5.

 

Convictions tells the story of a British teen convicted of thievery and sentenced to live her life in the new colony of Australia in 1842. Jennie is caught stealing rotten food from a dumpster to help feed her starving family. For this crime, the British government decides she should go on a perilous journey and live the rest of her life away from her family. The novel tells the story of this journey aboard a convict ship. The passage is hazardous right from the start.  While Jennie is spared, several of her fellow convicts get seasick and fill the sleeping quarters with their agony. When the women are allowed on deck, the crew is harsh, cruel, and offer Jennie little hope.  Jennie is able to use her seamstress skills to help the ship doctor tend to the injured convicts. When a hurricane hits the ship, she feels the ship break apart and fears that all is lost. Luckily, some of the women and a few of the crew survive. Even more fortuitously, a Scottish boat comes by and offers them safe passage to the next port.

Silverthorne sheds light on the plight of the British underclass during a tumultuous time in their history. While this is a work of historical fiction, the author lets readers know that situations like Jennie’s were far too common in Britain in the mid 1800s. While the vocabulary level and situations between the crew and the convicts make this work suitable for older teen readers, the interest level will probably skew towards younger teen readers.—Charla Hollingsworth.

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