There’s plenty to like about Toronto author Adrienne Kress’s YA debut. The steampunk adventure novel, set in Edwardian London, follows the lives of three very different teenage girls, each of whom works for an important man but also maintains a life of her own. The three strangers – Cora (the lab assistant), Nellie (the magician’s assistant), and Michiko (the Japanese fighter’s assistant) – find themselves thrust together as the result of a horrific unsolved murder and quickly discover that, by combining their special skills, they can accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
Anyone longing for a refreshing, inspiring cast of female heroes will find them in The Friday Society. Cora, Nellie, and Michiko are intelligent, independent young women with unique backstories. Cora is a whiz in the lab; her inventions and scientific knowledge prove indispensible to the trio. Michiko is a trained samurai, but she questions the implications of her calling and struggles with a serious language barrier. Nellie, the most outgoing and sweet-natured of the three, has a fondness for things that sparkle, but proves she is also capable of fending for herself thanks to a special knack for escaping tricky situations. Unlike many female-centric novels, there’s no cattiness here – these girls use their manipulative wiles to solve problems, not create drama.
It is to Kress’s credit that her prose never devolves into silliness, nor does it take itself too seriously – between Cora’s inventions and the girls’ interactions as they work together to stop a criminal known only as the Fog, this book is pure fun and adventure, and the author’s casual, irreverent sense of humour is apparent on every page.