Danika reviews A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar

the cover of A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar

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This is a YA sapphic heist story set on the Titanic. I’m sure most of you have already stopped reading to go add it to your wishlist, but just in case, I’ll keep going.

This is from the author of The Henna Wars and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, but while there is a romantic subplot in A Million To One, it’s not the focus as it was in her previous two books. This follows four point of view characters, all of whom have their own reasons for wanting to pull off a heist that could set them up for life opportunities that have previously been unimaginable.

Josefa is the mastermind and leader of the operation. Thievery is how she gets by day-to-day, and this is the job that’s going to change anything. She wants to steal the Rubaiyat, a jewel-encrusted book being transported that is worth more than any jewelry the first class passengers are wearing. She’s already managed to steal some tickets, but she can’t pull off this heist alone.

The easy choice to join her is Violet, a friend who has helped her out on several other jobs before. Violet is a very convincing actress, making her the perfect choice to be the face of the operation. She can charm almost anyone, which will help get them out of any tight spots. In her real life, though, Violet is closed off and suspicious, especially of the much less seasoned additions to their team.

The next person Josefa recruits is Hinnah, a circus performer and contortionist. In order to steal the Rubaiyat, they need someone who can fit into tight spaces. She’s eager to walk away from her life and pursue something new, even though she’s never done anything like this before.

Emilie is the last addition to the team, and the most unlikely. She’s a painter who is feeling lost after her father died. She lives in a different world than the other three young women, making Violet suspicious of her motives and capabilities. Still, Josefa is adamant that they need someone to forge a convincing copy of the Rubaiyat to buy them time. And it doesn’t hurt that she also has a crush on Emilie and has been looking for an excuse to spend more time with her.

Each chapter begins with a countdown (3 DAYS, 7 HOURS, 25 MINUTES), because, of course, this is a Titanic story. While the characters are busy trying to pull off a heist, we know there’s something much bigger and more dangerous approaching. Meanwhile, they have to dodge the Matron suspicious of four young women travelling without an escort as they navigate their tenuous relationships with each other–including a budding romance. And they’re all keeping secrets about what really brought them to this mission.

As with Jaigirdar’s previous books, the main characters all live in Ireland. Josefa is originally from Spain, Emilie is part Haitian and part French, Violet is from Croatia, and Hinnah is from India.

I found it interesting how this diverse group in a very rich, white environment was written. Racism is mentioned in the novel, but it doesn’t play much of a role while they’re on the Titanic, and as far as I remember, homophobia isn’t mentioned at all. I can’t imagine I would have enjoyed a book that realistically describes how queer women of colour would have been treated in this situation, but it feels like this exists somewhere between an alternate history and a realistic depiction, which was a little hard to pin down for me.

If the premise intrigues you, definitely pick this one up, though of course keep in mind that it takes place on the Titanic, so you know how it will end. I sometimes felt like I wanted to spend more time with the characters and their relationships to each other, but that’s a function of the genre, I think: it’s more focused on the plot than the characters, especially with four POVs to juggle in a fairly short book.

… Did I mention this is a sapphic YA heist on the Titanic?

Rachel reviews Her Maiden Voyage by Rachel Maldonado


A wonderful lesbian romance that takes place on the Titanic, Her Maiden Voyage by Rachel Maldonado, was just released earlier this year.

The protagonist of the story, Marie Antoinette Michaels, earns her passage on the Titanic to escape from England, where she is at the mercy of her controlling husband. Boarding the ill-fated ship to start a new life, Antoinette is a first class passenger. While departing Southampton, she meets Evelyn Chambers, a third class traveler with a moody husband and baby son. The two young women feel a pull to each other and become friends. Over the course of the voyage, Evelyn and Antoinette explore the ship and acknowledge their feelings for each other. Then the ship hits the iceberg. If Antoinette and Evelyn survive the voyage, can they live together in a time when homosexuality was not accepted?

Her Maiden Voyage is now one of my favorite lesbian books. The characters of Antoinette and Evelyn balance each other out so well: serious, down-to-earth Antoinette and plucky, playful Evelyn forge a strong bond. As they get to know each other better, the women begin to confide their deep secrets and longings. Antoinette wants to be a writer, and Evelyn wants to someday own a boutique, and they encourage each other’s dreams and to pursue what they want. Their love for each other is genuine and pure. The characters do have shortcomings, but that doesn’t detract from the story at all.

Another thing that made this novel really good was how in depth Maldonado went into describing the amenities and activities the Titanic had, and how the two women explored so much of it. There were squash courts, swimming pools, promenades, cafes, and more. It was fun to read about Antoinette’s exploits on the ship. I was not aware that there was so much to do on the Titanic! As the story progresses, Evelyn and Antoinette play squash, chess, swim races in the pool, dine in First Class, among other adventures. It was interesting to watch these characters explore and interact with other people, often in a joking fashion. The story had some good humorous moments, and the two women said some funny and cute things to each other.

The novel doesn’t center entirely around the night the Titanic sank, so is not packed with action and intensity like the famous movie, Titanic. Some readers may find the sinking in this book to be anti-climactic or glossed over, but it really wasn’t the point of the story. The point is two young women in love who want to create a life together. Personally, I thought the author handled the Titanic disaster well. She showed how many of the passengers were not fully aware of the situation, and how they wouldn’t know of the high cost of lives until later.

Her Maiden Voyage seems to mean more than just the first and only voyage of the Titanic, it also seems to represent Antoinette and Evelyn on their journey to acknowledge their love for each other. The title was a symbolic touch to the novel, and the story itself is beautiful. It’s a new take on lesbians in history, on a topic that no one really has done before, making it a groundbreaking and riveting novel.