My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—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.
Everyone said that My Plain Jane wasn’t as good as My Lady Jane, but I ignored them because I figured it was just a preference thing. But Reader, I am here to tell you that they were right. They were so, so right.
For one thing, where My Lady Jane was laugh-out-loud hilarious, My Plain Jane had a more cheeky sense of humor. It didn’t work as well for me, and it made the pop culture references jarring and out of place, rather than natural and funny. For another, the characters weren’t developed as well, and they were overall less likeable. While Jane Grey’s youth came off as innocent and sweet, Jane and Charlotte both felt like the authors were making fun of their naivete. And Alexander lacked character completely.
Also, in terms of this book as a series, I didn’t like that the England THIS book was set in had a completely different magical system than My Lady Jane, yet the authors tried to tie them together. Like Jane wouldn’t have learned about Edains in her history classes….
But I think the main problem was that Jane Eyre was not a good fit for the Lady Janies. While they story of Jane Grey is a relatively obscure piece of history, Jane Eyre is one of the world’s best-loved novels. This meant that the licence the authors took with the story was less charming and felt more like a personal attack on one of my favorite books. They also attempted to shrink the entire plot of Jane Eyre PLUS an entire side-story into a book with about a third of the word count. It made everything feel hurried and un-developed.
My Plain Jane had a purposefully Ghostbusters-y feel. It was very campy, the ghosts were humorous instead of scary, and things moved pretty predictably. Ghosts aren’t my favorite paranormal creature, but as far as ghosts go I guess these were done pretty well. I thought the Beacon business was a little YA cliche, however.
Overall I felt like this book was a huge critique of the works of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Which to me seems completely unnecessary.
So, yeah, I was pretty disappointed with this book. After My Plain Jane was in my Top 10 last year, and since Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites I was really hoping to love this book. I’ll still probably read My Calamity Jane next year, because I’m hoping since the source material isn’t a novel it will be another hit. Crossing my fingers.