Tomboy: A Jane Benjamin Novel

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Two years ago, I picked up Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud. I fell in love with Jane, the scrappy Oklahoma girl who reinvented herself as a copy boy and cub reporter for the Prospect in San Francisco during the Great Depression. The book was so well-contained that it took me by surprise to find Blanton-Stroud had written a sequel. As soon as I was over that surprise, I knew I had to get my hands on Tomboy.

Though it’s set after Copy Boy, Tomboy stands on its own well enough that it can be read as a standalone novel. All the necessary backstory is provided in a way that doesn’t feel like a heavy dump of exposition but a useful way of filling readers in on a potentially new character. At times it’s hard to believe this is only Blanton-Stroud’s second novel. She writes as though she has years of practice behind her.

In Tomboy, Jane has established herself at the newspaper, but it’s still not enough, and not just because of her burning ambition. She struggles to pay her half of the rent for the apartment she shares with a Czech immigrant, and watching her toddler sister Elsie takes up more energy than she had expected. When a chance comes for her to get a better post as a gossip columnist, she leaps at it. Finally, perhaps she won’t be overlooked. Finally, perhaps she’ll be paid what she’s worth, or at least enough to make her way.

A trip to report on a female tennis star at Wimbledon proves to be more than Jane bargained for when the tennis star’s coach drops dead at the game. On the trip back across the Atlantic, more questions arise, and Jane soon finds herself knee-deep in another mystery.

I loved Tomboy just as much as I did Copy Boy. Shelley Blanton-Stroud has a knack for capturing character voices and giving her characters enough small details to make them deep without making them obvious choices. Characters who would have been caricatures and cliches in another’s hand are made human by hers. The end of the 1930s was part of an extended transition in American life. A complex time requires complex characters.

I don’t know what Ms. Blanton-Stroud has planned next, but I do hope she continues writing. Whether she makes another Jane Benjamin novel or branches out to explore new characters, I know I will eagerly read it.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 312 pages
Publisher She Writes Press
Publish Date 28-Jun-2022
ISBN 9781647424077 Buy this Book
Issue June 2022
Category Popular Fiction