New Book Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston

Hey everyone, it is Sarah!

ARGH! I needed to get that exclamation out of the way. Johnston’s last book, Exit Pursued by a Bear, was a difficult time for us here at Bickering Books. In fact, it really lead to the creation of Bickering Books. We couldn’t stop talking about it. Add in a few montage moments with varying hairstyles and outfits and here we are today…well more like summertime. I was lucky enough to get several eARCs through Penguin, but one of them was a Johnston book. I screamed a bit internally because I knew that I would have to read the novel to keep my NetGalley reviewer score up (drat you Penguin, you got me). The cover was completely compelling and I would have been sold just on that….it’s pretty, right!? Here’s what I thought about the inside.


In the future (or perhaps the future past…whoa, X-men reference), the world’s aristocracy takes part in debutante balls similar to those from the Victorian period. However, in this world, computers exist and help match couples based on genetic data. When one of the main characters submits their DNA to the computer, they find that they are the opposite gender of the one they knew themselves to be. The character keeps this information secret, unsure of what impact it will have on their future. Throw in some love triangles, princesses in disguise and you have this unique and compelling novel.


Johnston won this round. The premise of this novel was interesting, unique and important. I have not read a fantasy novel with a main character who is intersex. I think this adds an important layer to the YA collection. I think that the setting needs better development. It was unclear whether history had been changed to create this world, or if it was a world similar yet different from our own. I found the solution further added to the themes of LGBTQ and broadens the concept of happily ever after (in a good way).



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