Book Review: The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross
“I’m called Endeavor 312.” The girl- Emily couldn’t think of her as a thing- moved closer, crouched on the floor by her bed. “You are the mother.”
She frowned. “No, I’m not.”
In return, 312 cocked her head, perplexed. “Yes, you are. Your genetic material is inside my own. You speak to metal, understand it. You are our mother.”
“My genetic material…” Damnation. The warehouse where they’d taken on the Machinist. All of them would have left bits of themselves behind-blood, skin, hair. All the organites needed was a little piece of a person to copy their cellular structure. No wonder 312 looked so familiar- she was made up from bits of her, Finley, Jasper, Sam, and Griffin. Not only was she a sentient machine on the verge of becoming almost completely human, there was a very good chance she might exhibit one, if not all, of their talents. She might even develop some of her own.
And she was at the whim of that awful spider creature. That was almost as disconcerting and frightening as the fact that the Machinist was not only alive but close by. He had to be in deplorable condition to require such treatment. Could he communicate with them at all? Of course they would protect him, try to save him. If she was their “mother,” because she could speak to them then Leonardo Garibaldi was their father, because he had literally given them life by using the organite power source to power their logic engines.
That was a thought that made her want to be physically ill, and it wasn’t all because of the concussion. This … girl could prove to be the most dangerous and powerful creature in Europe, perhaps the world, and she was at the control of a madman. Or, at least, at the control of a madman’s creations.
The Girl with the Iron Touch is the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles by author Kady Cross (her young adult pen name). Picking up where The Girl in the Clockwork Collar left off, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Finley are back in London, and trying to figure out how to work as a team and how to deal with not only Griffin’s growing powers but also their own personal relationships. Emily has come into her own by being able to talk to machines, but is completely frustrated by not being able to make Sam understand her true feelings- partially because of Sam’s own issues and partially because of her own. However, when the Machinist’s creatures take Emily to help with their mission of bringing him back to a more useful form, Sam’s and Emily’s relationship will be tested in ways they never could imagine.
Girl with the Iron Touch was a wild ride, and definitely delved further into the relationship aspects within the group originally formed in the series than previously touched on. The fact that it considers serious issues (e.g. what makes a person, how human are you), and how it draws on inspiration from Shelly’s Frankenstein, make this more than just a fast-paced steampunk adventure. There is sexual content (sexual assault in the past and reactions is talked about, as well as a a current physical relationship is described tastefully), moreso than in the previous books, though not explicit at all. 3.75 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads has Girl with the Iron Touch rated as 3.96 stars. Definitely can be paired with any of the steampunk reads that we have talked about in the past, including these:
I really like this series, and have since the beginning. I love the fact that Kady is pulling inspiration from the Victorian era literature for inspiration (Frankenstein for this one) and they can easily be paired with their inspiration; with nonfiction on the technology they’re using, the genetic technology of the organites; and with comic series like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I love the complicated relationships between the characters- the fact that Finely and Griffin are stumbling over each other, that Jasper is still torn over what happened in the last book, and that Sam and Emily can’t seem to find the right words. What bugged me about this book is that I was expected *more* about Emily, more of her backstory and history, more of her relationship with Sam, and for them to really shine. Finley and Griffin were the stars in The Girl in The Steel Corset, and Jasper was the main story in The Girl in the Clockwork Collar. In The Girl with the Iron Touch, yes, it progressed Emily and Sam’s story and relationship, but it pushed Griffin’s story more, and to me that was a little disappointing.
One thing that I adore in this series is that it realistically deals with the situation women were (and actually still are) placed in when dealing with sex. In Emily’s backstory readers knew that she was abused in the past, and in Girl with the Iron Touch we find out that she was raped, by someone that she knew and trusted. She ended up taking revenge, but she didn’t tell anyone because no one would have believed her- this was a friend of the family, someone that her family entrusted her safety with. The same is true today. You can read stories and police reports about kids and teens who don’t report abuse of any kind because they know that no one will believe them because it’s a family member, or a friend of the family, someone they and/or the family trusted.
And Emily is still dealing with the aftereffects of the rape to this day: it colors her relationships with others, and the way she reacts. This is the same with abuse survivors. You never forget, and even though you can survive it, you will never be the same. Reading Emily’s story is powerful, and something that I don’t think we find often enough in YA literature. When 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and 44% of sexual assaults are to teens 18 and under, it’s something that needs to be talked about.
For more information about sexual assault statistics, or ways you can help, check out the RAINN website.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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