Dear Jane is a novel by Marina DelVecchio.
Finished on: 17.8.2019
[I won this book in a librarything Early Reviewer give-away.]
Content Note: abuse, domestic violence
Elektra was adopted from Greece when she was eight. Now a teenager called Kit Kat in the USA with a single mother who expects her to forget that she ever had a life before her, she is at a loss. That’s when she stumbles upon a copy of Jane Eyre and in reading it, finds a kindred spirit in Jane. She starts to write letters to her to work through her past and her present, finding parallels in her life to the life of Jane Eyre.
Dear Jane felt a little too much like misery porn to me to really enjoy it. It does have good grasp on the characters, but I felt like they heaped a little too much on Elektra/Kit Kat – and then veered into positivity too quickly.
I know that some people have all the bad luck in the world and it is of course entirely possible that all those bad things happen to a single girl (DelVecchio mentions that the book is semi-autobiographical, and I hope very strongly, it’s the better half that’s autobiographical), but I got the distinct feeling here of a one-upping “what else can we put on this girl to show how incredibly bad she has it?”, kind of voyeuristic vibe that takes a little delight in all the bad things. I found that really off-putting, although I couldn’t put my finger on where this impression came from.
And then, after all that misery, the book suddenly turns to a rather positive ending. And don’t get me wrong, I wanted a positive ending, but it simply came out of nowhere for me, making it unbelievable. I did like, though, how Elektra/Kit Kat learns to accept her adoptive mother’s role in her life, although the role doesn’t change (for the better).
While I enjoyed the idea that Elektra/Kit Kat writes to a fictional character and the parallels she draws from Jane Eyre to her own life, that literary device got a little constraining and ultimately hurt the novel a little. The constant “this is just like what you experienced” references became a little annoying. It also stretches belief that a 15-year-old is writing those letters with that language.
I was also very much confused by Elektra/Kit Kat’s sexuality: she has sex when she is seven years old (not an abuse situation which I wouldn’t call having sex anyway), sex with another girl, but then she only ever cares about boys afterwards. To further the confusion, there is a moment where she basically says, “I’m not into boys… (queer me listens up) I’m into men (queer me looks disappointed)”. It’s a mess (which is okay, sexuality often is), but it’s pretty much dropped like a bombshell and then left un(der)explored.
At least, DelVecchio knows who her characters are and has a very good way of giving insight into them and their thoughts. But overall, a little less would have been more with this book.