Publication Date: June 2, 2020
About the Authors:
Margaret Stohl is a #1 New York Times bestselling nerd, world-builder, video game creator, comic book writer, and festival founder. As an award-winning young adult author, she has been published in fifty countries and thirty-two languages and has sold more than ten million books worldwide. She has published fifteen novels and graphic novels, as well as contributed to several games and countless comics since her debut.
Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Publishers Weekly internationally bestselling author of many critically acclaimed books for readers of all ages, including the Alex & Eliza trilogy, Disney’s Descendants novels, the Blue Bloods series, and the Summer on East End series.
What if Jo March really was even more of a biographical study that Louisa May Alcott intended her to be? The authors of Jo & Laurie take the fictional Jo March (or is it Louisa?) and set her story in between the publication of Little Women but before the penning of Good Wives (if you’re confused about what book that is, it is usually bound up with Little Women as Part Two and sold in one book). Jo has taken her family, told some truths, some half-truths, and some untruths about them, and turned them into characters that have taken the reading public by storm. Of particular embarrassment to the family is the fact that Jo invented a romance between her elder sister Meg and Laurie’s tutor, Mr. Brooke. Of particular embarrassment to Jo is the fact that she keeps receiving fan mail asking whether she will marry Laurie in the sequel.
Laurie, however, is just as keen on the latter idea as Jo’s female readers are. He invites Jo and Meg to New York where he takes Jo on a whirlwind of society, gifting her a Worth dress and a ticket to see the illustrious Charles Dickens. Naive, crochety, and perhaps just plain scared, Jo rebuffs Laurie repeatedly, until he finally makes the mistake of offering his hand to someone else. As Meg’s prophesied romance with Mr. Brooke begins to develop in actuality, Jo is put in the role of congratulating others on a love she will never have. The publishers keep hounding her to complete the sequel. If only she could figure out what to do with her characters’ love lives! If only she could figure out what to do with her own!
I loved the premise of this book. I am one of those readers who has always thought that Laurie married the wrong March sister, so I was excited to see Laurie and Jo get a chance together. Of course, one could not expect true love to have smooth sailing, but I must say that I was extremely disappointed with Jo when she refused to wear the dress Laurie had made for her (spoiler: and gave it away to Meg!). Laurie started out strong as a character, but seemed to lose agency throughout the book, discouraged by Jo’s rebuffs. Maybe I have built up a story in my own head over the years about how Laurie and Jo finally get together, and this story just didn’t want to cooperate.
The blending of Jo’s life with the real Louisa’s life was an interesting concept, but I don’t think it enhanced the romance between Laurie and Jo. The oddity of Jo already having written a book about them (but about caricatures of them, not about who they truly were) made my head spin. Amy’s sickness (which strangely paralleled Beth’s) was also a confusing plot choice for me, until I read the Author’s Note that explained how this had happened to Alcott’s own sisters. The pressure of providing for her family with her writing but having worked herself into a corner with her own story, was depicted well, as was Jo’s frustration over “writer’s block.”
All in all, this was an interesting read for those who like fan fiction or are interested in reading between the lines to learn more about the real Louisa May Alcott.