Bestselling authors Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz bring us a romantic retelling of Little Women starring Jo March and her best friend, the boy next door, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence.
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?Jo & Laurie, Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
June 2, 2020
“The greatest love story finally told” is a bold statement. Does Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz live up to that claim. Let’s see.
First things first, this book is either incredibly clever or wickedly confusing depending on how you’re feeling as you read it. Also, I assume, it helps if you’ve actually read Little Women as to know the characters of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel better. But, something worth knowing is that Jo is the writer of Little Women within Little Women and so in this book she is in the period between the first half of Little Women that came out in 1868 and the second half of Little Women that came out in 1869. Those two halves were then turned into one novel, which is the classic Little Women that can be found on bookshelves and libraries everywhere today. So, this book is set within the fiction of the two books’ releases that were actual world releases. Considering the fact that Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is considered a semi-autobiographical novel, I guess it makes sense for the setting of this book to have one foot in fiction and one foot in reality.
I do have to say though, the arrival of Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in this book is the first real jolt of energy and life, aside from Jo debating with her publisher over her book’s title in the beginning. But alas, as soon as he shows up he is gone again. Something wonderful that Stohl and de la Cruz have done in this novel are making Laurie fulfill the role of muse and the infamous “lover-that-saves-the-writer’s-career.” In almost every author origin story, there is the lover that tells the writer to keep writing. Usually, like in Stephen King’s case for example, that person is a woman propping up a man. To see Laurie playing support character to Jo is a nice switch on the old doubtful writer narrative,
There is something incredibly distracting about this book as well. The language is, I assume because I wasn’t alive in 1868, accurate to how people spoke in 1868. This makes the book both feel incredibly accurate while also mildly annoying. Personally, I spent a lot of the dialogue thinking to myself, “Who talks like this?” But then when I remember the book is set in the summer of 1868, I am reminded that they, probably, did. However, that is only during the scenes that are establishing the fact that the story is in 1868. The conversations among the sisters, for example, when discussing Jo’s writing are rather fun to read. In fact, as a writer myself, these scenes make Jo the most relatable to me as a reader.
The cover claims that this book is “the greatest love story finally told” and based on the title being Jo & Laurie it is easy to assume that Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz are writing about the love story between Jo March and Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. However, as I read it, I found there to be a very different love story going on. That love story would be the love between an author and the writing process. All of this book that is not about Jo and Laurie is about Jo and writing. The interactions she has, the conversations she has, the insecurities she feels, the dedication she shows, the utter abandonment of writing at all she goes through, and everything else that develops her writing is like a big love letter to writing. Stohl and de la Cruz seem to focus on the love story of author and writing. A love story explored in interesting ways like Jo’s conversations with her publisher and editor. While the love story between Jo and Laurie is one that is interesting and real at times, the true love story that makes this book such a great read is the love letter from Maragret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz to writing itself.
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Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.
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