Teen Volunteer Review: The Downstairs Girl

This year, Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers share their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. In today's post, Westford Academy student Mia Ikeda reviews The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee. Check out her thoughts to see if this historical mystery is worth reading!


The Downstairs Girl by Stacy Lee is a riveting story about Jo Kuan, a girl of Chinese descent living in Georgia during the post-reconstruction era. In this time period, most Asians living in America were laborers and often struggled to make a living due to the prejudice. Jo lives secretly in the basement of a print shop with her adopted father, who works as a stable hand. In the beginning of the novel, Jo works at a hat shop. Her work is widely praised by the customers, and her beautiful hats are admired by the people of the town.

Living in an era and area where the belief that women should be seen and not heard was still widespread, Jo’s habit of giving unwanted advice to her customers gets her terminated from her job. Another tragedy looms ahead as she realizes that the newspaper print shop, which she lives under, may go out of business. This would leave Jo without a home. So Jo decides to don the hat of an elusive “Miss Sweetie”; an opinionated newspaper columnist who quickly gains a following.

Jo has a quick witted mind and makes clever jokes. This book has a wonderfully sculpted plot and ingenious dialogue. The Downstairs Girl is an amazingly crafted story of making a path for oneself-with the help and love of family and friends.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Boston Public Library