If I had grown up in 19th century England, as Elizabeth (Bet) had, I quite possibly could have been the main character in this story. Bet, being female and a virtual orphan, really had no chance to ever attend school as she dreamed, instead being destined to live out her life under the roof of Paul Gardener, the rich man who kindly took her in when her mother, a maid, died.
Will, Mr. Gardener's nephew and Bet's closest friend, wants nothing more than to join the military and continues to be kicked out of every school he is sent to, for poor behavior. Bet devises a plan for she and Will to switch places. Bet will disguise herself as a boy and attend boarding school, while Will goes away and joins the military as he wishes.
Obviously, things to do not go quite as clean and smooth as the pair wants (on either end), but what results is funny, a bit sad, and definitely an enjoyable read.
I probably would have done anything to go to school when I was younger, so if I had been told I was unable to go because of my gender, you can bet I would have dressed up as a boy if someone presented that idea to me! I doubt I would have pulled it off quite as well as Bet did, though even her quick thinking and author Lauren Baratz-Logsted's great writing, couldn't make the story completely believable. It was definitely a stretch to imagine Bet and Will pulling off as much as they did and for that length of time, but the story is so readable, you won't care.
The plot and the writing style immediately draw the reader in and I found myself finishing the book in one sitting. A bit of romance, a great friendship, and a girl who would do anything to learn makes for a really nice story. There's a lot of spirit in the book and Bet is a great female main character.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
More than a tad predictable, but very well-written and enjoyable. I also would have liked to have seen more of Will's side of the story once he joined the military. I think that would have added a great element.
The Education of Bet
Review copy received from publisher
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