In 1849 in Missouri, Samantha and her father struggle to find acceptance. She dreams of living in New York and being a musician, a dream she knows will be hard to achieve with her being a girl and Chinese. An accident forces her to flee for her life, along with a slave named Annamae, and together, the two plan to travel the Oregon Trail. The safest way to do that is to disguise themselves as boys, Sammy and Andy. They end up crossing paths with a trio of cowboys and the five of them end of traveling together, sharing stories, becoming friends, but danger is everywhere and one slip from either Sammy or Andy could mean their lies are exposed.
Is it possible to fall in love with a book on the first page? Because that was exactly what happened to me while reading this one. I have always been a huge fan of books, movies, and television shows set in the old west so I was excited when I first heard about this one. And it didn’t disappoint.
The book was told through Sammy’s POV and I quickly fell in love with her voice. She was passionate about music, trying to be strong in a world against her, didn’t let fear stop her, and I really liked how often she would bring up Chinese culture and her beliefs. Annamae was the more outspoken of the two, just as strong and determined to escape as Sammy was, and she had her own fears to overcome on the journey. The friendship forged between those two girls was so touching and became so strong. They couldn’t be more different and were really only brought together by tragedy, but they could look past that to become like family to each other. It was just such an amazing, supportive, healthy friendship.
The three cowboys that rounded out their group were also amazing. Cay, West, and Peetey. Even without any of them getting a POV, the bond between them was clear. They were family. They would tease and banter and gave the book a lighthearted feel. Just as it was great to see the bond forming between Sammy and Annamae, it was great to see these boys taking the girls, or boys as they thought, under their wings.
The book never shied away from the danger of being a woman or a minority, or both, in that time period. It also didn’t shy away from the danger of traveling along the Oregon trail. Even in the more lighthearted moments, there was always the possibility of danger. Criminals, especially gangs, were always a threat, but there was also stampedes, weather, injuries, disease. It was not an easy journey and death along the way was a real possibility.
There was some romance but it was slow and sweet and took a back road to the friendships. The main focus was always on Sammy and Annamae. The history and the culture that was brought into the book felt natural, which was great. The whole book felt very well-researched and it was just so well written and the characters were so well developed.
There was a reason I fell in love with this book on the first page and that feeling never left me through the whole book.