I judged Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis by its cover in the best possible way. Though clearly I am not the intended middle grade reader, everything about this cover appeals to me – the almost grainy texture, Harry Potter-like image and deliciously cartoony style. Thumbs up on cover design.
This is the first book in the series Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson.
It’s 1803 and Kat’s family is in trouble. Kat’s flawless plan to save her family from ruin is foiled when her sisters catch her trying to run away in the middle of the night – she gets as far as the front yard. If her sisters are going to make a “proper” life for themselves and keep their brother out of debters prison, they apparently need to marry rich men.
Like everyone else in their small English town, Kat knows her late mother was a witch, but she was too young to remember her. And their stepmother won’t allow any mention of it, she’s even locked away old photos and treasures. Kat’s plan B is to find one of her mother’s enchanted items and use it to bring fortune to the family. Here the reader can smile because we know book magic is ever that simple. What happens next could inadvertently change her family’s future, if she manages to figure out who among her mother’s former associates are friends and who are foes. Also it wouldn’t hurt to figure out how this magic stuff works.
Kat’s idea of fun is a little off beat.
I had wanted to be held up by a highway man for ages.
The stakes heighten from a plucky girl understandably trying to help her family, to a young witchy maybe guardian intent on preventing her oldest sister from marrying the wealthiest man around, who also happens to be a rumored wife killer. And this is when the plot gets clunky. Its earlier charm falls of the proverbial carriage, the carriage pops a wheel and the plot starts to painfully drag.
I liked this book okay. If you’ve read any middle grade fiction, you’ve probably met a version of Kat’s always-finding-trouble character before. She’s supposed to be 12-years-old, but sometimes her voice sounds closer to 9 and other times 15. You can certainly tell Burgis is under the heavy influence of regency novels (which she recognizes somewhere, perhaps the bio, I don’t recall). The stuffy marriage talk and the almost desperate financial situation weren’t enough to compel me to care what happens because both motivators show up a lot in historical fiction set in this period.
Kat, Incorrigible is a fun, light read that kids would probably enjoy, especially if they haven’t been spoiled by the goodness of Harry Potter yet.
Au contraire (a few glowing reviews):