The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
By Mackenzi Lee
Grade Levels: 9-12 and Adults
As summer is right around the corner, we thought it would be nice to showcase a book that is unabashedly fun for you to enjoy. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a New York Times bestselling young adult fiction novel and a 2018 Stonewall honor book for LGBTQ representation. It was incredibly successful following its 2017 release, and is even slated for a movie adaptation on HBO at some point in the near future. An adventure novel in the best of that tradition, GGTVAV follows the life of Henry “Monty” Montague, the son of an English nobleman in the 18th century as he embarks on one last trip around Europe before he is destined to return to England and take up his responsibilities as his father’s heir. Although the story is narrated by Monty, the supporting characters in this narrative play a very large role in filling out the cast with a variety of personalities to counterbalance Monty’s irreverent, arrogant, but wholly lovable protagonist. He is joined by Percy, friend and love interest, as well as his sister Felicity. The three of them are each developed to such an extent that by the end of the book, we can’t help but be pulling for each of them despite all odds. And those odds are stacked against them as they confront enraged nobles, pirates, and a mystery to solve.
The author, Mackenzi Lee, has a background in both history and writing, and it shows in how thoroughly she fills the world with details from the period that bring the characters and the setting to life. This even includes an afterword that gives the reader more in-depth historical context for the period and may inspire readers to find out more about the lived experiences of people from this point in history. Without betraying a needed degree of verisimilitude owed to the historical context, Lee uses the struggles that each of our main characters faces conforming to 18th century society to comment on similar issues in our own time. Despite the fact that the book confronts themes of child abuse; homophobia; sexism; and racism, it still manages to maintain the upbeat tone of a swashbuckling adventurer in the Princess Bride mould. If you’re looking for a historical young adult novel to read this summer that’s both shamelessly fun but also pointedly relevant, look no further.