ARC Review: Jo & Laurie

Title: Jo & Laurie
Author: Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retelling
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis

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?

Review

Jo & Laurie takes place in between the two parts that make up the entire Little Women story while also adding this huge original twist to it. 

We get to step back and meet Jo March, the real Jo March, who wrote the story Little Women Part One and is now dealing with the fame and success of it. Little Women is meant to be the fictionalized story of her life, while Jo & Laurie is her real life. There is no rich Aunt March, Beth does not survive her first and only round of Scarlett fever and Meg has never even exchanged words with Laurie’s tutor. All of it was made up for her novel. It’s like pulling the curtain back and meeting the wizard which was such an interesting concept.

Jo is the same Jo though, fiercely independent, loyal and still not in need of a man to make her life complete. It was so fun to follow her on her writing journey for Good Wives. How do you write a story that hasn’t happened yet? Or create a future on a page that doesn’t seem so outlandish or fantastical? Jo struggles to please not only her editor, but herself and her family who everyone now knows way too much but too little about. She needs this story though to make money to support her family who are even more poor than described in the books. The bright spots in her life are her sisters so she’s pushing to create a story to make a better life for them.

Beyond her writing struggles we get to more deeply explore her friendship with Laurie and of course their feelings for each other. We get a bit of Laurie’s perspective in chapters, which I really loved, to see where his desires lie and why he makes the choices he does. He was always dragging Jo off on adventures and surprises, my favorite being a week long trip to New York where we get to explore the City with Jo and see what it was like during that time period.

What I thought was a fun twist to this story is that along with Jo and Laurie’s perspectives, we also get get Meg’s! Meg who is so refined, beautiful and meant for the better things in life. We get to see the bit of awkwardness that ensues due to this made up romance in Little Women with Laurie’s tutor and her experiences being the older and most promising sister. It was such a fun take and I enjoyed being in her head while she too fell in love and had to make the decision between following her heart or providing for her family.

Jo & Laurie really took a step back and explored the classism between the March’s and those who run in the Lawrence’s circle of friends. While the families are such good friends there is obviously a huge gap in the money they have access too. This is very prominent in New York and even Laurie himself sees how the very poor and the very rich sometimes have the same attitudes or mindsets because neither have anything to lose in flaunting the rules society has set.

Jo & Laurie is not meant to replace or add to the Little Women story, but to take a step sideways and pretend that Alcott did not write Little Women but Jo herself as the real author. If you loved the original Little Women and didn’t secretly or no-so-secretly ship Jo and Laurie together, skip this. If you want to explore this romantic possibility and see more of the world during this time I highly suggest picking this one up.

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