You've read Hattie Big Sky*, right?
If you hadn't, you should. Like, right now.
OMG, SO GOOD, RIGHT? I love it so much.
Spoilers about the first book are kind of a necessity, so continue at your own risk.
It's June, 1919, and Hattie Inez Brooks is in Great Falls, Montana, working at a boardinghouse so that she can pay off the last of the money owed on her Uncle Chester's claim. While she can't imagine her life without her best friend Charlie in it—he's back from the war, and suddenly a young man, rather than simply Hattie's childhood friend—she knows that she wants something more than settling down and getting married: she wants to follow in the footsteps of Ida Tarbell and Nellie Bly. Yes, Hattie Brooks wants to be a reporter.
So when she gets the opportunity to move to San Francisco, she takes it... even though it means being separated from Charlie yet again.
Once she gets to San Francisco, she discovers that breaking into journalism is going to be a rough road—apparently that horrible "you need experience to get the job, but can't get experience without getting the job" catch-22 goes back a long, long way—but Our Hattie is a determined young woman. Before long, she's settled into a new room, has a job at the paper—on the cleaning crew, but it's a foot in the door!—some new friends, a whole city to explore, and a lead on the Mystery of Her Late Uncle Chester's Long-Lost Romance.
She's definitely got some challenges ahead of her: in addition to her career goals, her relationship with Charlie is getting more and more confusing and complicated—and the attention she's getting from Ned at the paper isn't making things any simpler—but come what may, Hattie is making her way into the world and into life, and despite any pitfalls or stumbling blocks in her way, the world (and life) had better WATCH OUT.
If my squeefest about the existence of a Hattie-sequel is anything to judge by, I'm sure that any fan of the original will already be planning on reading Hattie Ever After. I'm also sure that any fan of the original will be plenty pleased with it: Hattie, after all, is an infinitely likable narrator, trustworthy, warm, generous, and kind. (But NEVER INSIPID.) I especially love her lack of entitlement or pretension: she's always willing to learn, and always willing to start at the absolute bottom. And there are some lovely bits about storytelling and the writing process that will be hugely inspiring to aspiring writers, regardless of age.
Also, Kirby Larson has a real knack for picking super-fun historical themes and tidbits and just, you know, stuff, to feature: celebrities of the day, early planes, details about 1919-era San Francisco, grifters, the newspaper business, vaudeville, women breaking into male-dominated fields, baseball, the dating scene... It's not quite as strong as the first book—the different threads of the storyline didn't always mesh together organically, some of the historical details (though always interesting!) feel a bit shoehorned in, older readers are bound to peg Ruby for what she really is at first sight, and the ending feels rushed—but it's still hugely, hugely enjoyable.
Bonus points: There's a lengthy author's note at the end with loads of information about Larson's process and her research, with recommendations for nonfiction reads as well as a few Special Features-ish 'I thought about going in this direction with the book' thoughts. It very definitely has me chomping at the bit to read more about famous lady journalists (like Nellie Bly) AND lady con artists (like this lady!). So, you know: YAY!
*How funny is it, by the way, that I wrote about not liking historical fiction in my post about Hattie Big Sky? I love it so much now. Our reading tastes and preferences change so much over time: I forget, sometimes, that this blog serves as a chronicle of my own personal Reading Evolution. Okay, that's enough Snow Day Philosophizing. Back to Hattie.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.