Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Rating: 
Author: Liane Oelke
Genres: Young Adult
Pub date: Jan. 2018 (read Jan. 2019)

Wow! This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while, so I finally decided to read it on a whim and ended up reading the whole 400 page book in a single sitting! I read pretty fast, but it’s been a while since I’ve marathoned a single book that fast! It’s an extremely fun read and the style and content really lends itself well to a quick read.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is about senior year high school student Jane Sinner. She’s been expelled from school in her final semester and we’re not sure why, but in order to finish her diploma, she enrolls in a community college for the Spring and Summer semesters. She feels it’s important to move out of her parents house for a while, but she doesn’t really have much money, so when she sees an advert for really cheap rent in a house near campus, she jumps on it. The only catch is that she’ll be one of six people living in the house and will have to participate in a big brother style reality show called House of Orange. Jane is looking to re-invent herself, so she decides to apply.

I really liked this book. I thought Jane was hilarious and the book never takes itself too seriously, even though it does still have some pretty serious underlying themes. It’s by a Canadian author from Calgary who now lives in Vancouver, so I could definitely relate with the content and setting and thought it was a breath of fresh air from all the American YA books set in the south (I also laughed a lot at all her disparaging comments about Edmonton). I am always looking for new adult books about college/university students, and while I will still definitely categorize this as YA, I liked the college setting and that it focused on the transition to college, which can be a challenge.

This book has a lot of different themes; the pressures of high school and college, the challenges of overcoming our past, and dealing with mental health and suicide. However, one of the main themes in this book, which I really liked, was about religious tolerance and finding and leaving Christianity. Christian lit is really not very good, so I’m always intrigued when there’s a good side story about a character’s relationship with Christianity. In Jane’s case, she’s grown up going to church her whole life and her parents and many of her friends are devout Christians. Jane eventually comes to the realization that she doesn’t believe in God and then finds it very difficult to cope when her entire belief system suddenly crumbles around her.

I liked that Jane was able to come to terms with her beliefs, without the book being hugely critical of Christianity. She still has Christian friends, one of which is a bisexual teenager who has been able to successfully reconcile both her faith and sexuality with one another. I thought the book was very respectful of both Christians and atheists, which I really appreciated. It’s not a theme I was expecting to find in this book and it was a pleasant surprise.

Primarily though, this book is just a lot of fun. The dialogue is written like a movie script, which I think helped move the story along quickly and I was enthralled from start to finish. The reality tv show idea is brilliant and I thought the author executed it perfectly! You can tell she works in the film industry because it was just so easy to visualize this book as a tv show. When Jane would talk about each episode and the way the footage was cut, with the little humourous bits added in, I could see it in my mind and I just really wished it actually existed so that I could watch it and laugh along.

The reality tv show bit is hilarious and I loved Jane’s voice. She is super sarcastic and initially you think she’s overly introverted and I wondered if she might be agoraphobic. That was not the case at all and Jane ended up being extremely smart and witty. I loved all the characters in House of Orange, but Jane was definitely my favourite. I thought all of the other contestants and characters were very authentic and I had no trouble believing that any of these people might exist. My only minor criticism might be that I thought not a lot of the other characters had much character growth, but Jane had an immense amount of character growth, so I can deal.

Overall, I really wish this was a more talked about book because it is actually really good and I think it deserves a lot more praise. What a great debut novel! I really hope Liane Oelke writes more books because I will definitely read them!

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My Plain Jane

Rating: 
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pub date: June 26, 2018 (read July 2018)

I was really expecting to like this a lot more than I did. I don’t know if I just had too high expectations after My Lady Jane, but My Plain Jane just didn’t seem to have quite the same flair as it’s predecessor.

If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s the second book in The Lady Janies series, although they are all standalone books, so you don’t have to read them in order. They are authored by 3 YA authors and are basically historical and fantastical retellings of Janes throughout history. The first book was about Lady Jane Grey, who was known as the 9 days queen since she ruled England for only 9 days before losing her head. My Plain Jane is essentially a retelling of Jane Eyre, but with Charlotte Bronte re-imagined as one of the characters in the story (or rather, re-imagining the cast of Jane Eyre as real people that Bronte interacted with and inspired her classic novel).

Most importantly, these books are full of hi-jinx and hilarity where the authors frequently directly address the reader. Lady Jane Grey was really funny and a ton of fun to read (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is another book of very similar style), but while I chucked at parts of My Plain Jane, it just wasn’t quite as engaging for me. The first half of the novel pretty much just seemed to be a re-telling of Jane Eyre, with a few ghosts thrown in, but it wasn’t until the second half of the novel that I felt the authors finally started switching things up a bit and the plot got more interesting. There’s a lot of build up to not a whole lot of action.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this and I will definitely be returning for the third and final book, but this definitely couldn’t compare to My Lady Jane in my opinion. There were a lot of fun pop culture references thrown in here though that I did enjoy. The only problem is you kind of need to have read Jane Eyre to catch on to some of the jokes. I think there were a bunch of jokes in reference to other classic works as well, but I didn’t pick up on a lot of them, I did appreciate them whenever I did catch on though.

So not a big winner, but a solid 3 stars. I still got a few laughs out of this and it was nice to pick up something so lighthearted.