Pat Lowery Collins, May 2009. I read a lot of queer YA fiction, and I confess to growing weary of it sometimes; one can only read so many contemporary realistic gay teen novels, set in high schools and featuring closeted jocks, bitchy cheerleaders, and wacky theater kids. This, then, was a breath of fresh air: it’s set in early-eighteenth-century Venice at the Ospedale della Pietá, the orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi trained young girls to sing and play various instruments.
The story is narrated by three of the girls. Rosalba longs for life outside the orphanage, and particularly for boys. Luisa is the diva, with a fabulous voice, a big ego, and (alone among the children) a real live mother who visits from time to time. Anetta is our lesbo heroine – she has a huge crush on Luisa that, of course, she can’t voice or even identify with, considering the era. She knows she has a yearning to be close to Luisa but can’t relate that to the sort of desire Rosalba has for boys. Luisa is annoyed by Anetta’s affections, but then Rosalba wisely advises that Anetta lay off, and this brings the pair closer. It’s a lovely tale of unrequited love, and the backdrop is unique. Highly recommended for all public and most school libraries, but do be aware that there is a rape scene that ends in a pregnancy.