Book Review: The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

Posted April 28, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger, Uncategorized / 41 Comments

The Mad Girls of New York
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Series: Nellie Bly #1
by Maya Rodale
Publication Date April 26, 2022
Published by Penguin
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Genres: Fiction / Historical / General, Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Historical, Fiction / Romance / Historical / Gilded Age
Pages: 336
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

"Rodale crafts an adventure yarn worthy of a 19th-century bildungsroman, but there's still heaps of her signature wit and banter."--Entertainment Weekly

An exciting novel based on the fearless reporter Nellie Bly, who would stop at nothing to expose injustices against women in 19th century New York, even at the risk of her own life and freedom.

In 1887 New York City, Nellie Bly has ambitions beyond writing for the ladies pages, but all the editors on Newspaper Row think women are too emotional, respectable and delicate to do the job. But then the New York World challenges her to an assignment she'd be mad to accept and mad to refuse: go undercover as a patient at Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum for Women.

For months, rumors have been swirling about deplorable conditions at Blackwell's, but no reporter can get in--that is, until Nellie feigns insanity, gets committed and attempts to survive ten days in the madhouse. Inside, she discovers horrors beyond comprehension. It's an investigation that could make her career--if she can get out to tell it before two rival reporters scoop her story.

From USA Today bestselling author Maya Rodale comes a rollicking historical adventure series about the outrageous intrigues and bold flirtations of the most famous female reporter--and a groundbreaking rebel--of New York City's Gilded Age.

The Mad Girls of New York is a historical fiction novel based on real events.  It is also the first book in Maya Rodale’s Nellie Bly series.  And I’m excited that I’ll get to learn more about Nellie in her next book.  

Nellie moves to New York City to become a reporter after starting out in Philidelphia, writing for the ladies’ pages in the Philly paper.  But, now in New York, she wants to write “real news” and not just recipes and society news.  She goes from newspaper to newspaper and all she gets are rejections.  When she meets up with a couple of other journalists, she decides she has to do something drastic to get a big story so a newspaper will hire her.  

When Nellie hears the rumors about the horrible conditions at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women, she realizes this may be her chance for an important story.  But, the only way in is to have herself committed, and then withstand the deplorable conditions for a week.  It’s only a week, how hard can it be?  

I loved Nellie Bly.  She’s tough, fearless, and not afraid to stick up for herself.  The book focused on the horrific conditions at Blackwell’s and sometimes it was difficult to read because it’s just so sad.  But, it’s also so inspirational.  Nellie made some very interesting friendships inside the asylum and I just loved how these women banded together and helped each other out as best they could.  

I’m really looking forward to the next installment of this series.  I can’t wait to see what kind of story Nellie finds next.  Make sure you read the author’s notes at the end too! 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Maya Rodale

Maya Rodale is the best-selling and award-winning author of funny, feminist fiction including historical romance, YA and historical fiction. A champion of the romance genre and its readers, she is also the author of Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Maya has reviewed romance for NPR Books and has appeared in Bustle, Glamour, Shondaland, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and PBS. She began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and has never been allowed to forget it.

41 responses to “Book Review: The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

  1. Excellent review Wendy. I have always been fascinated with this story about Nellie Bly and Blackwell’s. I really want to read this book, now.

  2. The treatments for the asylums back then were comparable to torture! It breaks my heart to read about it. I would’ve have guessed this was historical fiction just looking at the cover. Glad to hear you enjoyed it and are looking forward to continuing the series!

    • This book was so heartbreaking. I actually had to put it down a couple of times because it was so hard to read about how they treated these women.

  3. I can’t wait to read this one! Nellie Bly has always been one of my favorite people; she led such an interesting life. 🙂

    • Yes, she’s a fascinating character. This series is called the Nellie Bly series so I imagine the next book will be about her also.

  4. Jenny+McClinton

    This sounds really good even though it may be hard to read sometimes 😊 great review 💕