A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Saving Savannah brings alive multiple social and political concerns of the United States in the 1910s, including the Harlem Renaissance and "New Negro" movement, Jim Crow, the socialist and anarchist movements, women's suffrage, Prohibition, and WWI. There's an emphasis on the life experiences of African Americans and people of African descent from Africa and the Caribbean. It highlights the spectrum of black lives, from slum dwellers to wealthy, elite black society.
Look beyond your personal bubble. Expose yourself to people and ideas that seem foreign. You may find that your purpose lies somewhere that you wouldn't have imagined.
Positive Role Models
The author's prime purpose in this book is to spotlight black people who do not fit the stereotypes of downtrodden Americans. The main character comes from an African American family of well-to-do entrepreneurs. Many of the lower-income characters are well-read, educated, and entrepreneurial. There are positive portraits of people of African descent who are not Americans, but who come from Africa and the West Indies.
Violence & Scariness
The story includes scenes of the violence from the historical events it covers. Those include lynching of lack WWI soldiers in uniform when they returned to the Jim Crow South; anarchist bombings; and police brutality toward people accused of being communists. A dog is shot to death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There is a slight suggestion of romantic interest between the main character and the West Indian man she befriends.
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The word "piss" is used in describing an alley that smells like urine.
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Products & Purchases
Materialism and material wealth are addressed as themes. Savannah comes from an upper-crust family with a lot of luxuries. Through her volunteer work and the people she makes friends with, she encounters people who live in tenements, can't afford medical care, and suffer disabling work injuries.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Groups of men get drunk in a couple fo scenes, and some commit violent acts.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden (Inventing Victoria) is a historical novel set in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I. Savannah, a teen from elite Black society in Washington, D.C., gets involved with radical social movements including women's suffrage and socialism. Descriptions of violence that include bombings by anarchists, lynchings of Black people, and police brutality in service of suppressing alleged communists. There are depictions of adults forming violent mobs after getting drunk.
Is It Any Good?
The sweep of history makes this story of an elite Black teen in 1919 Washington, D.C., who becomes an activist an exciting read. The title character of Saving Savannah's, like the hero of Tonya Bolden's previous book, Inventing Victoria, is a sympathetic young woman who gets exposed to parts of the world she couldn't previously have imagined, and who's inspired to reinvent herself. The weakness of the book is that some of the characters and subplots seem like excuses to introduce issues, ideas, or events rather than being necessary to the story. At times, it seems more like a thought experiment than a novel, but as a thought experiment ("What would it be like to be a young person living in the tumultuous year of 1919?") it is satisfying.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.