Jo & Laurie
1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration--museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!
But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo's desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart's desire or lose the love of her life forever?
Adapting older books to modern times sometimes adds layers to the characters that aren't there in the original, but I was really pleased with the handling of most of the situations. My only quibble was that there seemed to be a lot of travel back and forth to Boston and New York that seemed a little unusual for the March/Alcott family, but is within the realm of possibility.
I don't know how many middle and high school students read Little Women these days (in my library, it is very few!), but this is a good choice for fans IF they were disappointed that Jo turned Laurie down. Readers who liked Baratz-Logsted's Little Women and Me or were intrigued by the graphic novels that place the characters into a modern day setting might find this to be interesting as well. This stands on its own as a historical novel, but is better if one is familiar with the original.
What worked: Okay, confession time. When I read LITTLE WOMEN as a tween I hated that Jo turned Laurie down. I mean, they were perfect together. I didn't quite buy the whole Laurie and younger sister Amy together. It felt forced and too sudden to me. So when I found out Stohl and De La Cruz did a retelling? I wanted to read that novel. And I wasn't disappointed!
In this 'What if' scenario Jo doesn't know what to think of her modest success with LITTLE WOMEN. Readers get to meet the same characters they loved in the original story, but Stohl and De La Cruz fleshed them out a little more. I really enjoyed seeing the dynamics of the 'real' sisters and I loved Laurie even more!
Jo suffers from doubt, writer's block, and a driving motivation to succeed at writing in a mostly male's world. Meg is the older, prim sister, but unlike the original novel, she also has her own insecurities and fears. Amy is younger in this novel and suffers a devastating illness that brings everyone together.
I really enjoyed this engaging historical, though at times the pacing was slow. It does pick up, especially during Amy's illness and Jo's struggles on her writing. The romance is sweet, not only with Jo and Laurie, but Meg and Brooke.
Sweet retelling of LITTLE WOMEN where Jo struggles to write the perfect sequel and finds that truth is stronger than fiction.
Although the book is billed as a romance, most of the book is Jo relating to her sisters and trying to figure out how to write what we know as the rest of LITTLE WOMEN. She wants to fulfill her commitment to the publisher and stay true to herself.
The book captures the difficulty of putting pen to paper as well as familial love that marks the original book. This is a retake/retelling on LITTLE WOMEN that tries to fit in the historical context, including the sexism of the times. I found it to be pretty slow in terms of pace and many of the characters felt a bit lackluster. However, Amy really has quite the personality, and she was a fun character to read. I did appreciate the context at the end which shows the research the authors have done and how they feel this fits in with Louisa May Alcott's life and feelings about Jo and Laurie. I think sisterhood was strongest type of love in this book (versus romance) and that the main focus was on authoring.
Overall, I think this would appeal to people who enjoy slow-paced historical fiction. Please note that I received an ARC from netgalley. All opinions are my own.