Book Review: The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros [Audiobook]

As if life isn't already hard enough being a gay Jewish teen in 1800s Chicago trying to save money for his family to come to the US, Alter ends up possessed when his friend is murdered. But his friend is one of many in a string of murders of Jewish boys, and now Alter, a girl from his building, and the boy he thought he'd cut from his life a year ago must find the killer if they want to save Alter and stop anyone else from being murdered.

Book Cover - The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
Title: The City Beautiful
Pages: 430
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads // Amazon // Publisher


This was great!

As someone who is not Jewish, I loved how Jewish this book was. It included the culture and religion, as well as the difficulties of being a Jew in the US during the time period, like the anti-Semitism, the poor living conditions, and the separation of families. And Alter’s POV felt so real and influenced by all that. I loved being immersed in a perspective completely different from my own, and I feel like the author found a great balance of giving little bits of info here and there to help the reader understand certain important things (like beliefs and rituals for the dead) but also not over-explaining (like just using words from other languages, though the ebook and probably print formats do have a glossary).

The book also felt so immersed in the time and place of the setting (1893 Chicago). I’m not a history buff, I never really know how correct things are, so I just go by the feel, and this felt authentic and drew me in. In the author’s note, he talks about some of the history and politics of the time and how he used it as a framework for the story, which is cool.

There was also just a great story that kept me interested about Jewish boys being murdered, and the main character being possessed by his recently murdered friend, and he and his friends trying to find the killer, plus a bit of romance. There were definitely some dark/heavy elements, but it wasn’t scary or overly dark.

I liked the characters too, and I feel like their sweetness balanced the dark that I just mentioned. Alter was trying to be a good person but regretted some things he’d done and struggled with accepting certain parts of himself. Frankie was the leader of a crew of thieves and wasn’t the most morally upstanding person, but he had his reasons, and he had a good heart with people who deserved it. Raizel was an outspoken, go-getter kinda person, and I loved her. Even Yakov, though he wasn’t in the book for long, was someone I felt for. Some of them went through some traumatic things in their pasts, but it was handled with care by the author. And the romance subplot was sweet. They clearly cared about each other, I could feel that.

I also want to recommend this review because it talks about certain elements of the book better than I did, especially the characters, and Rogier is the reason I read this book in the first place!

I really enjoyed the audiobook narration by Maxwell Glick. I’m not familiar with the accents in the book, so I can’t say how accurate his were, but they were certainly better than I could’ve done in my head, I enjoyed them, and they added to the immersiveness of the book for me. He also did a great job of bringing emotion and intensity to scenes that required it.

Overall, this was a wonderful book with queer Jewish rep, lovable characters, an immersive historical setting, an intriguing plot, and a sweet understated romance!

Trigger/Content Warning: Mentions/discussions about rape, but not explicitly described.

*Rating: 4.5 Stars // Read Date: 2022 // Format: Audiobook*


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  1. Jessica

    I love reading books of other cultures. I read a book that was a dystopia where a Native American tribe was struggling with no power. It was an awesome book. Of course, the martial arts fantasy book series I was reading had Chinese culture in them. I think this space dragon one I am reading now will have some too.