________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 16. . . .December 21, 2012


The Friday Society.

Adrienne Kress.
New York, NY: Dial Books (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2012.
440 pp., hardcover, $18.00.
ISBN 978-0-8037-3761-7.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

*** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected and Unpublished Proofs.



"Who? Who exactly?" Cora was pacing now. "Who has 'the skills,' as you call it? No one can get out of a tricky spot like you, Nellie; you're practically a cat, the way you just get in and out of places. As for me, well, I'm probably one of the best organizers and problem solvers there is, considering what Lord White puts me through on a daily basis. Plus, I've got a great number of weapons at my disposal. And anyway, who needs my arsenal when we've got the greatest weapon of all right there?" She pointed at Michiko.


"We've already been pursuing this, each of us, in our own way. And somehow we always manage to help each other out. It's fate. It…it has to mean something. Everything is connected. Right?" She turned to Michiko, who nodded, but it wasn't clear if she was agreeing with Cora or just humoring her. Nellie still didn't look convinced. Cora sighed and sat down at the foot of the bed. "Haven't you always wanted to just do something yourself?" she asked, her voice softer. "To make a real difference? Not for anyone else. Not an assignment or a task. Something that you made the decision to do?"

"Don't know, really."

"I have. Yes, Lord White is the best thing that ever happened to me, but I don't think I owe him servitude for life just because he rescued me as a child."

"Well, you kind of do; you are his servant."

"What I mean is…surely what I am capable of, my brain, my talent, surely that wasn't meant to be just some assistant. Surely I was meant to be more, and to do more."

"You goin' to quit your job, then?"

"No…I…I just want to do this. And I want to do it with the two of you. We can help each other. We can protect each other. Like we've already been doing." She pushed herself along the bed, leaned her back against the wall, and felt exhausted. "I can't do this alone. I don't want to. Together we're unbeatable. Apart, we're just…assistants to men in London society. In other words, nobodies."


Cora Bell is a bright, resourceful young woman who also happens to be a lab assistant to Lord White. Cora loves being part of Lord White's activities in his secret lab, relishing every opportunity to learn and to use her knowledge and problem-solving skills to piece together exciting new creations. She is grateful to Lord White for having rescued her from a life of squalor and misery when he found her living on the streets and took her in. But even more so, she is grateful to him for recognizing and appreciating her brilliant mind and encouraging her to use it. Their relationship is a comfortable, albeit unorthodox, one. Thus, Cora feels all the more betrayed when a certain Mr. Andrew Harris arrives on the scene, having been hired by Lord White as a new lab assistant. There prove to be many reasons for her to dislike him…if only he weren't quite so handsome.

      Meanwhile, Nellie Harrison is an incredibly beautiful magician's assistant with noteworthy skills of her own. Working alongside the Great Raheem, Nellie and her amazing memory and incredible agility are a major part of their show's huge success. Like Cora, Nellie's early years were filled with poverty, and she feels very fortunate to have found such a wonderful opportunity for herself. Most importantly, she recognizes how lucky she is to be working with a man who values her abilities and recognizes her importance to him. She knows that most women don't share her good fortune.

      Michiko Takeda is one of those women who do not share in Cora and Nellie's good fortune. Michiko was brought by Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw to London from her home in Japan where she had trained as a samurai. When Sir Callum had seen her physical prowess, he invited her to return with him to England where she could assist him in his business of teaching self-defense to members of England's upper classes. Flattered that he was impressed by her abilities, Michiko agreed to accompany him, only to discover that he truly thinks of her as little more than a servant – a servant whose fighting skills vastly exceed his own. But Michiko understands the importance of patience, and she knows how to run away when the need calls for it. So she bides her time, serving as Sir Callum's lovely and lethal assistant.

      Then one night, these three very capable young women find themselves thrown together, as if by fate. Their first meeting transpires at the scene of a grisly murder. When the trio find themselves each drawn back to the scene the next night, the seeds of friendship are firmly planted. But these chance meetings are all connected to a series of murders and other random crimes taking place throughout London. Using their impressive abilities, determination and thoughtful intelligence, they combine forces to get to the bottom of the murders, track down a wily and elusive villain and save the city of London from total annihilation…all without besmirching their bosses' reputations. Or even getting their names mentioned in the paper!

      Fun, feisty and fast-paced, Adrienne Kress's first novel for young adults displays the same playful and irreverent humour as her earlier children's works, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (Vol. XIV, No. 8, Dec. 7, 2007) and Timothy and the Dragon's Gate (Vol. XV, No. 17, April 17, 2009). While The Friday Society succeeds as an engaging and atmospheric murder mystery (that is lightly sprinkled with steampunk elements), its greatest strength lies in the stories of its three protagonists and how they come together. Not unlike an Edwardian "Charlie's Angels", this trio proves to be highly entertaining, and Kress's manner of introducing them individually and then having their paths cross not once but several times is very effective in terms of ensuring that readers feel equally invested in all three characters. While none of their life situations are very representative of the time period, the author still manages to convey a vivid sense of London life and how dramatically different the circumstances were for the various social classes. And, of course, for women. This message is trumpeted by the heroines, themselves, and is at the very heart of the story. In grand style, the threesome prove that they are more than just trusty sidekicks to their respective masters/employers, that there is a lot more to them than their pretty faces. At one point in the story, Cora faces a group of Eton boys at a local pub and tells them: "We (girls) don't say anything because no one listens. No one lets us speak, and if we do, our voices are silenced by an affectionate pat on the head. We have opinions. We can problem-solve. There's much more to us than you think." Together Cora, Nellie and Michiko demonstrate this in a wild romp of a tale that stretches credibility on more than one occasion, but the reader will be too caught up in all the fun to care. (That being said, this reviewer found the excessive use of trendy modern phrases somewhat distracting. "You've got to be kidding me", "not so much" and similar expressions that are distinctly at odds with the story's time and place proved to be a source of minor frustration).

     Not only has Kress delivered a rousing and wonderful tale, but she has set the stage for more to come. True to form, she has created a full cast of quirky characters that readers will look forward to meeting again soon. Hopefully readers won't have long to wait for the next adventures of the newly-formed Friday Society!


Lisa is Co-Manager of Woozles Children's Bookstore in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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