Review: Ripped Away by Shirley Vernick

Ripped Away by Shirley Vernick

Ripped Away
Shirley Vernick
Fitzroy Books
Published February 8, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Ripped Away

Ignored yet again by his crush, Abe Pearlman wanders into Fortunes and Futures for a little diversion. The fortune teller reveals that Abe may be able to save someone’s life. But before he can ask any questions, he’s swept to the slums of Victorian London, where he finds that his crush, Mitzy Singer, has also been banished. Abe and Mitzy soon discover that they’ve been plunked down in the middle of the Jack the Ripper spree.

To get back home, they’ll have to work together to figure out how the fortune teller’s prophecy is connected to one of history’s most notorious criminal cases. They’ll also have to survive the outpouring of hate toward Jewish refugees that the Ripper murders triggered. Ripped Away is based on real historical events, including the Ripper crimes, the inquests, and the accusations against immigrants.

Ripped Away on Goodreads

My Review

This book was such a quick read! I feel like I just saw someone recently talking about how so many middle grade and young adult books are intimidatingly long these days, so it was nice that this turned out to be a short book for a change. I think it also fits really well into the upper middle grade/lower young adult gap, where readers are kind of over the books that feel too kid-like, but not necessarily ready for the heavier or more grown-up issues in young adult books. So I liked RIPPED AWAY for that reason, too.

The book takes place during Victorian London, at the time of Jack the Ripper’s murders. The story doesn’t really focus on that, however. Instead, through the eyes of two young, Jewish characters, we see a city torn apart by fear, hate, and antisemitism.

Abe and Mitzy know each other in the present, but after individual visits to a fortune teller, they are flung back in time, where they find each other again. They decide they have to complete a task the fortune teller gave them and then hopefully return to their proper timeline. I liked the idea of their quest and the fact that they bonded over being transported back in time. I feel like they didn’t really have a clear aha moment where they understood exactly what to do and took ownership of the quest and hatched a plan and then executed it. There were glimpses of that ownership, but they were kind of fleeting.

The other thing I struggled with was the representation of Mitzy as blind in her Victorian London life. I’m not blind or vision impaired, so I’m not really qualified to speak about whether the representation was good or bad. What I can say is that it made me uncomfortable at times. I felt like Mitzy complained about it an awful lot, and while I understood that it would be a big adjustment to lose her sight like that, I also wished she didn’t seem to think of herself as less valuable and less capable of solving the time travel mystery as a blind girl. That said, I looked for other reviews that discussed this aspect of the story, especially a review from a blind or vision impaired reviewer, but I’ve been unable to find one so far.

I enjoyed other elements of the story, and I really liked how unique it was. The past setting felt very immersive without being bogged down in unnecessary details. The story and the setting were balanced really well. I liked both Abe and Mitzy as characters, so I found it easy to invest in seeing them succeed and find their way home.

All in all, I think readers who enjoy historical books or time travel stories or are looking for a quick read will like RIPPED AWAY.

Ripped Away on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Representation
Abe and Mitzy are both Jewish. In Victorian London, Mitzy is blind.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
No profanity. In one scene, a woman uses a slur to identify Mitzy and Abe as Jewish.

Romance/Sexual Content
Abe has a crush on Mitzy.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content – content warning for antisemitism.
References to murders committed by Jack the Ripper. Someone throws a stone at Mitzy’s uncle while he’s walking on the street.

Rumors spread that Jack the Ripper has a “Jewish appearance”, sparking attacks and fueling antisemitism in Abe and Mitzy’s neighborhood.

Drug Content
None.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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