By Jessica Anya Blau
Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six? Um, yes and thank you. I’ll take two, please.
In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.
The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.
Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.
One thing I loved most about this book was Blau’s storytelling. She brings to light something every teenager goes through and every human can relate to. It’s that moment when you realize you don’t see the world the way your parents did, the moment you realize your parents may not know everything, the moment when you first begin to know yourself. Question the world around you.
Mary Jane takes place throughout the entire summer of 1970. I loved that our author left the ending somewhat open ended. We see Mary Jane become exposed to the world of fantastic music and “leave little to the mind” fashion – but we don’t ever know what happens to Mary Jane throughout her life. How did these things shape her into adulthood? So yes, I was left with questions, but the journey was just so good!
This novel is a love letter to the family you choose, love, music, and that one summer when you discover your parents may not know everything. Consider my heart pulled to the tunes of the 70’s. I don’t think I’m ever coming down from this bookish high!
So millions of thanks to author Jessica Anya Blau and publisher Custom House for this Advanced Reader’s Copy.