Christmas isn’t Christmas without any presents, and Aryssa isn’t Aryssa without Little Women.
I don’t even remember when I was first introduced to Little Women, but I’m nearly 25 and this book, this story, dominates so much of my personality now. Seriously, if you haven’t heard me gush about the new Greta Gerwig adaptation, you haven’t spoken to me. I truly believe Little Women is an American classic, and one that isn’t taught enough in schools. There’s two ways people group themselves: into Hogwarts houses, and into which March sister they were. I’m an Amy. I know, I know, you’re thinking, but Aryssa…you’re a librarian. You must be a Jo. But alas, despite my proclivity for novels, I am an Amy. I am vain, I am downright ridiculous at times, I probably WOULD marry my sister’s ex, and I am, mostly, of middling talent.
However, the story of Jo & Laurie has always spoken to me, from a young age, as I reflect on my own complicated friendship with my own Laurie, who I both love without end and would absolutely kill on any given day, depending on how the wind blows. That’s why I was so intrigued by this book, which is historical fiction meets a little bit of fanfiction—Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz.
This book is the story of Josephine March as, like in the new Gerwig movie, the author herself of Little Women. It’s autobiographical nature is embraced fully. When this book opens, Josephine March has published the first half of Little Women—what was known as Little Women,before Good Wives, the sequel, though now they are published together simply as Little Women. Now, she’s trying to write a sequel, but how? Fact and fiction are not so simple when you’re writing about your family, and she doesn’t want to just marry everyone off-especially not herself. But, as we all know, there’s romance brewing between Meg and Mr. Brooke, Laurie’s tutor, and as she tries to write her protagonist’s story, Jo must face her own indecision about Laurie and their future together.
Yes, this is a “romantic retelling” in that it’s got a HEA for Laurie and Jo, no spoilers there, that’s pretty obvious, right? But it is GOOD. Like…really good. I’ve been a little IFFY on de la Cruz’s last few books (the Alex and Eliza series didn’t do it for me, and the P&P gender bent retelling should be burned) but this one works. The prose is timely and timeless. It feels like reading a redone Little Women, which maybe a little less supreme wit, ya know? It’s not a jarring read in that way. I was compelled. I cried. I laugh. I rooted. Yes, I know that Louisa May Alcott didn’t want Jo & Laurie to end up together, but you know who did? GENERATIONS OF READERS EVERYWHERE. Let us have this moment, okay? Let us imagine. Let’s enjoy a potential, especially one that’s really well written, feels true to the source material in the most important ways, and overall, made me, a Little Women enthusiast to the highest degree, really happy.
Jo & Laurie is on sale wherever books are sold June 2, 2020