My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, narrated by Fiona Hardingham
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
My Plain Jane, the second (standalone) title in the Lady Janes series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, is a tongue-in-cheek, supernatural spoof of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre. In this retelling, our titular heroine, Jane, can see dead people. In fact, she’s what’s known in the ghosthunting world as a Beacon–ghosts are drawn to her and will do anything she asks of them. While Jane enjoys getting to hang out with her (unfortunately deceased) childhood BFF, Helen Burns, she does not want anyone to know about her secret ability. Jane’s (living) best friend, Miss Charlotte Bronte herself, sees great things for Jane, and is dismayed when Jane decides to take up a position as a governess at Thornfield rather than work for the exciting Society for the Relocation of Wayward Ghosts with Charlotte’s brother Alexander.
Though Jane works hard to keep her life as normal as possible, mysterious things begin happening at Thornfield Hall and Charlotte and Alexander arrive in disguise to investigate potential supernatural activity. What they uncover is more sinister than any of us dear readers could have anticipated. Of course, we all thought Mr. Rochester was kind of an old creep, but My Plain Jane offers a supernatural explanation for some of his strangest behaviors and the odd occurrences in his home.
Fiona Hardingham had big shoes to fill as a narrator, taking up the mantle from the previous Lady Janies series narrator, the prolific Katherine Kellgren who passed away earlier this year. I’m happy to report that Hardingham succeeds completely at the task, capturing the unique tone and spirit of the story. She brings each character to life by employing a wide variety of distinct voices and accents–from starry-eyed Charlotte, to broody and gruff Rochester, whiny Helen, and dauntless Jane. She’s serious when the story calls for it, yet you can practically hear her smirking knowingly and rolling her eyes during the snarky authorial asides. I’m convinced that listening to My Plain Jane read aloud by Ms. Hardingham is the best possible way to experience the story.
This book will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. Hand it to folks who enjoyed the previous title, My Lady Jane, and of course to any Bronte fans you meet. Teens who like their historical fiction with a side of sass and supernatural will eat it up, such as those who enjoyed The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee or The Diviners by Libba Bray. Readers who got a kick out of the witty, ghosthunting antics of the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud would do well to give My Plain Jane a try as well.
–Jessica Hilbun Schwartz