Noli's Victorian world is a little different from our own. In Noli's world a substance called aether can cause wars and creativity. Some places simply have a lot of it naturally, sometimes it is released because of earthquakes. In this reality the Civil War ended early by "The Great Quake Chain" -- massive earthquakes that hit all across the United States within hours of each other. The war ended and America worked hard to rebuild.
The aether released by the earthquakes brought forth "The American Renaissance" which birthed vast amounts of technology in a very short time. The younger people, like Noli, quickly adapt, but some of the older folks, or even those like Noli's mom, don't. So, in Noli's world carriages and trains exists side-by-side with flying cars and airships. The air-patrol fly through the skies watching not only those in the air, but the cars on the ground.
Los Angeles has a moderate amount of aether, which is why, in Noli's world, the moving picture industry is blossoming. After the 1895 earthquake, San Francisco now holds a dangerous amount of Aether, so much that some people wear medals to protect them from it. Aether is blamed for Noli's father's disappearance. In this world he San Francisco quake happens because of an event that happens in the Otherworld--the realm of Faerie.
Despite it's advanced technology, Noli's world is still very Victorian in nature. Most women still wear dresses and bustles. In the higher levels of society, where Noli's family precariously perches, it's socially unacceptable for a woman to work. Noli's desire to go to the university and become a botanist instead of marrying well, is scandalous. Well, to society, not everyone thinks that way. But the women's equality movement is not wide-spread. It's illegal for a woman to hoverboard, drive a car (flying or otherwise) without a male in the seat next to her, or pilot an airship solo.
Because Noli's mother got a job to support them, they're on the very fringes of society and any move they make could impact them both socially and financially. If Noli caused a scandal, the gently born ladies that frequent Mrs. Braddock's shop could stop buying dresses there on principle. Hence, Noli's mother's attitude that her daughter needs to stop acting like a hoyden and find a rich husband.
Her world is different from ours, but she and her friends deal with the same things many teens deal with. Noli's trying to find her place in society, which may not be the place society wants her to take. V feels like a disappointment in the eyes of his father. Kevighn can't get over his sister's death. James falls in love for the first time. Charlotte has to decide if she'll let circumstances get the best of her or make the best of circumstances.
I hope you enjoy Noli's world, and remember never talk to strange faeries.