Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Little Women and Me
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
November 8, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: B-

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.



I think I need to preface this review by saying Little Women and Me was not for me.  I definitely think there’ll be readers who’ll enjoy this romp through the classic nineteenth century novel, but I can’t count myself as one of them.

I try to take a book’s premise at face value – e.g. I don’t have a problem with the main character being sucked into a book, and I don’t feel the author needs to explain how this happened, but I greatly prefer the rules of the ‘magic’ stay consistent once they’re established.  While Emily’s within Little Women, at times she remembers what’s going to happen next and at times she has ‘story amnesia’ and which happened when never seemed to have a reason beyond increasing tension.  The original book characters also seem to have a difficult time remembering that Emily is there which was an intriguing idea but also frustrated me because again there didn’t seem to be any real consistency which happens when.

I’d have been able to overlook a lot of the above if I was more engaged with the main character.  Emily never really gelled into a real ‘person’ for me.  Instead - like some of the plot devices - I felt like Emily’s personality bent at the whim of the story.  She was definitely amusing, and I especially enjoyed her observations about the nineteenth century and the March family as a whole.  Her relationship with Beth was also incredibly sweet, but beyond that Emily seemed more inclined to chase boys (all the while declaring that she needed to change the book so Jo ended up with Laurie) than interact with either her real sisters or her March sisters in any meaningful way.  Being self-centered isn’t anything new for a YA heroine, but that coupled what seemed like a complete lack of empathy (other than towards Beth), Emily never seemed to develop beyond this until her sudden realisation at the end of the book.

Reading the author’s notes, I saw that she had written the book by reading one chapter of Little Women and then writing one chapter of her book, and suddenly much of the book made more sense to me.  Perhaps the author wished to have an episodic style, but while Little Women obviously has overarching themes and plot, Little Women and Me never seems to achieve that.  Even Emily’s realization at the end of the book seemed out of nowhere, and I think the novel as a whole would have benefited from a more consistent dramatic arc to aid in both gradual character development and thematic structure.

There was a twist towards the end that made me laugh out loud, but when looking back at it, I still can’t see more than one indication that it was coming.  I really love surprise twists where the framework is laid more consistently throughout the book.  As it is, I’m left feeling like the author simply wished to throw a plot twist in the ending pages.

I’m seriously disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book more.  I’d been really excited to get the opportunity to read it – especially since Little Women is one of my favourite books.  (Though I have to admit that I’m possibly the only reader ever who thinks that Jo marrying Laurie would be a terrible, terrible idea.)  But unfortunately neither the book nor the characters lived up to my expectations.  It may be that my love for the source book is standing in the way of a love for this one, but I don’t think so.  I enjoyed the outsider’s perspective on the March family and their admittedly slightly insane way of life, and I enjoyed the idea that some of the family’s most charming traits for a reader would be incredibly annoying to a participant.  What kept me from enjoying the book as a whole was an uneven structure and a frustration that the main character was never developed fully enough to love or hate.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing me to read this!

5 comments:

  1. Colleen @ Les LivresOctober 29, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    What a shame this book disappointed you; the premise sounds like it would have been really cute and a fun read. I might pick this up if I find it at a good price, and see what I think, but I think I might not go too far out of my way to find a copy.

    Great review!

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  2. The premise totally made me all excited! I wonder if it might be time for me to start passing this author by. Her books' premises always sound awesome but I've been disappointed twice now. :(

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  3. It's interesting what you say about how Baratz-Logsted wrote the book because that's exactly how it feels--as though she went from chapter to chapter the way a reader does, with no real sense of what will happen next in the story. It's a great way to read a book, not write it.

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  4. I felt the same way about that. I read it in her Author's Note at the end of my eARC and kind of tilted my head all "huh...things make more sense now."

    She's also making the point that a lot of events in Little Women come out of nowhere in the book - like the Pickwick Papers or the Busy Bee society - which is TRUE, but there's an alternate point that Alcott only covered the meetings that were important to the story. Any book spanning years has to skip things, and most readers expect that. Of course one can argue there's an issue that the meetings 'important to the story' are the ones that Laurie attends (hmm, only important when a boy's present?), but that's a whole different set of arguments to have...

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  5. I've been seeing this title around...the premise is cute, but doesn't sound like enough to hang a whole book on.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I read and adore each one.