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My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

BOTTOM LINE: Way too much fun!

Genre: Young Adult; Romantic Comedy; Fantasy; Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 26 June 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.”

My Thoughts: The phrase “rollicking good time” is such an odd one, and yet it is the one phrase that comes to mind when thinking about My Plain Jane. For fans of the book Jane Eyre, from the opening paragraph, you know you are in for a treat. What follows is a story that when summarized looks to be crazy – and not in a good way. Victorian ghostbusting, the Brontë family, and a fictional character “come to life” should not be in the same novel together after all. However, between the asides and the good-natured satire, it all works wonderfully well together to create what can only be described as a rollicking good time.

To be sure, Ms. Hand, Ms. Ashton, and Ms. Meadows take a beloved classic novel and are a bit merciless in their mockery of it. Nothing about the original story is kept sacred or considered off-limits by the authors, something of which they use to their advantage. By all rights, this should upset the most diehard fan, and yet you cannot help but go with it. You can tell there is no malice in their mockery, and, in spite of pointing out even the most minute flaws in the story, you can tell they are themselves fans of Ms. Eyre. Plus, they do not limit themselves to just Jane’s story. Many Victorian customs face their own form of public roast as the authors use their twenty-first-century mindset to poke fun at old-fashioned ways of thinking. Thankfully, it is a good-natured ribbing rather than a brutal tearing apart of the story, the characters, and the setting.

There have been other spoofs of popular classics, but I do believe this is one of the first times the author of the said classic is also included in the spoof. As irreverent as the novel is, the inclusion of the Brontë family makes the story feel like an homage to this famous family and their works of literature if only because the love behind the comedy is so obvious. Plus, the entire story is so creative. The way in which the authors tie together Charlotte’s story with Jane’s and with the ghostly work of Alexander Blackwood is clever and well worth the read.

My Plain Jane is the type of novel worth reading when you need a good laugh. Fans especially will delight in the syntax of the novel and have fun catching all of the ways in which the authors make fun of the original story. In no way does it diminish your love of the original but rather allows you to set aside that love for some critical thinking about it in the guise of good-natured fun. For the younger crowd, this element of critical thinking is a valuable learning lesson, whether they realize they are receiving one or not. Therein lies the beauty of My Plain Jane. It is fun and funny with a real love for the characters and for the art of writing but obviously not meant to be taken seriously and yet with some insightful asides that allow modern readers to put into perspective some of the more troubling elements of Victorian social mores. Personally, I loved every second of this book and cannot wait to see what these three authors do next.

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