Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Janet Fox
For ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2012   ISBN: 978-0142424308

When Jo’s big brother Teddy came back from serving in the The Great War he brought home medals and a lot of pain and heartache. He was a changed man, and after a while he left the family home to go to New York City, where he hoped to get a fresh start. For a while all went well, and then Teddy met an Irish mobster called Danny Connor and his life started to get complicated. It got so complicated that he needed to disappear, which is why he asked Jo to help him. A year ago, in 1924, Teddy died, or rather he faked his own death. With Jo’s help Teddy staged his suicide and disappeared, and he asked Jo to keep his secret.

   Ever since Teddy’s so-called death, life in Jo’s home has been hard. Her father is angry and he has become deeply involved in bootlegging activity, working with Danny Connor even though he knows that the young mobster is very dangerous. Then one day, without any warning, Pops announces that Jo is going to Manhattan to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle. Apparently they have agreed to do what they can to find Jo a suitable husband. A husband? The last thing Jo wants to do is to get married. She wants to finish school and then go to college. She wants to become a writer. She has dreams and aspirations of her own. Her father, however, is not going to allow her to become one of those independent thinking flappers. Marriage is the way to keep her out of trouble. Jo quickly realizes that though Pops says he is doing this so that she has a respectable life, he is actually sending her away to keep her safe. Danny Connor is a threat and Pops wants Jo well away.

   Unfortunately, Pop’s plan backfires. Jo isn’t in town long before her cousin Melody has given her flapper style dresses to wear and encouraged her to cut her hair short. She even buys Jo makeup and expensive Chanel perfume. Jo is grateful for the clothes and loves having short hair, but she has no interest in joining the heavy drinking Melody in her hedonistic search for entertainment. Try as she might, Jo is not able to avoid the life completely and she ends up meeting Danny Connor and Louise, his “moll.” By sending Jo to New York City, Pops put her in the middle of Danny Connor’s world.

   It isn’t long before Jo realizes that Danny wants something from her. He is convinced that Teddy told her or gave her something important. He even indicates that he knows that Teddy is not dead. Jo is terrified. She cannot bear to betray her brother, but if she does not do what Danny wants, he will come after her and her parents. He may even harm her aunt, uncle, and cousins.

   Louise cannot help admiring Jo, but she also hates and fears her because she convinces herself that Jo is interested in Danny. What she doesn’t know is that Jo is interested in Louise’s brother, Charlie, a part time musician who works for Danny on the side. Though Louise knows that Danny is a hard and dangerous man she loves Danny so much that she refuses to see him for what he really is.

   Bit by bit, Jo begins to piece together what happened to her brother after he came to live in Manhattan. She is given his journal and then she is able to find pages from the journal that Danny hid in places that only she could know about. She begins to understand why Teddy was afraid of Danny and she also learns that her brother, the war hero who had medals, was a complicated man who desperately tried to do the right thing.

   In this fascinating novel the author explores the battle a girl has with herself as she tries to keep a promise and protect the people she loves at the same time. Set against the backdrop of a time when so many changes were taking place, this is a novel that will appeal to teens and adults alike.