Reader, she sees dead people: a review of “My Plain Jane”

June 09, 2018

(Originally posted on my old book review blog, HilliterateBlog!)

Hello again! I’m back, over a month after saying that I would start blogging more often… Oops. BUT I think I’m going to try this new thing where I stop shaming myself when I don’t post for a while, because that makes me associate all these negative/guilty feelings with the blog rather than just having FUN which is the whole point here, people. Along with making all of my friends read all of my favorite books.

In the name of having fun, today I’m going to talk about an exceedingly fun and delightful book I’ve just finished, My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. *bows down to these three for successfully completing The Ultimate Group Project* MPJ is the second in the “Lady Janies” series, following up 2016's My Lady Jane, but you absolutely don’t need to have read one to read the other. The stories are not connected in any way but their titles and one cute/subtle reference in My Plain Jane. Book 1 is a quirky, whimsical, fantasy-retelling of the life story of Lady Jane Grey; book 2, a similar twist on the classic Jane Eyre. So yes, these writers have dug into my mind and produced the exact stories that I never knew I wanted.

TBH the cover art is what led me to read <em>My Lady Jane</em>. GORGEOUS.
TBH the cover art is what led me to read My Lady Jane. GORGEOUS.

In My Plain Jane, our title heroine is a young, smart, and yes, plain girl who happens to be able to see ghosts. She is friends and classmates with Charlotte Brontë, an aspiring writer who desperately needs a good pair of glasses. Because of her special ability, Jane is being pursued by the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits via their dashing young agent, Alexander Blackwood, but Miss Eyre has zero interest in joining. One reason for her disinterest is her ghostly best friend, Helen, whom she would really not like to be responsible for “relocating,” but she is even further deterred when she receives a governess job at the home of the brooding Mr. Rochester. What follows is…honestly hard to describe, but trust me that it’s quite the entertaining adventure across the English countryside with magic, mystery, and romance galore.

I think that what I love most about the Lady Janies books are the clever, hilarious narrators. So many pieces of each story can be goofy/absurd, but the narrators totally sell it. They frequently address the reader in a way that’s like, “Reader, we know this is goofy/absurd, but this is how it happened.” It feels like they are taking you on a journey with them, letting you in on the things your history and English teachers didn’t want you to know. They also wink at you with witty references to modern times; my favorite in My Plain Jane was probably when they’re describing a king who has been possessed by a crazy ghost. The mad, delusional, possessed king’s first decree is that everyone in the kingdom must acknowledge that his coronation had the biggest crowd in attendance of any coronation in history.

…..I mean…….

Need I say more? Probably not, but I will add that you do not have to be too familiar with the original Jane Eyre to enjoy My Plain Jane, so don’t let that deter you. If there are things you don’t understand throughout, I’m sure a quick wikipedia scan can help ya out. I definitely encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this book ASAP — I was super lucky to receive an ARC from my bookstore job, but My Plain Jane will be in stores everywhere on Tuesday June 26th!

Do you have any favorite retellings of the classics? Let me know in the comments or on the social mediaz! I’m also trying to speculate on who the subject of the next Lady Janies book could be… Jane Austen? Jane Goodall ft. a gorilla on the cover? Jane Doe, if we can’t come up with another name? Only time will tell, but I will pretty much read anything these authors want to write.

Thanks as always for reading and sticking with me on this fun lil writing endeavor of my own :)

K. Hill

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