Wednesday, June 27, 2012
A Breath of Eyre
Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…
Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own...
My rating: ***
I went into this with pretty low expectations (because of reading several negative reviews) but I love Jane Eyre, so I really wanted to try it. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would! But I still had a few issues with it. Let's start with the bad.
Content. Just going to say straight up for those of you who are sensitive (like I am) that there's drinking, swearing, and casual drug use by teenagers in this book, and while there's no sexual content there's plenty of innuendo. I don't like it when YA books treat these things like they're normal teenage behavior. I know tons of teens that don't drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex. Just saying. Oh, and can I say that it always creeps me out when teen girls have crushes on their teachers and flirt with them? This is WRONG!!! There are so many horror stories out there these days that anytime YA lit portrays a student/teacher crush it makes me nauseous.
Aside from that, I thought some of the parts where Emma lives inside Jane's story were very unoriginal. Emma becomes Jane, forgets that she's Emma and all of a sudden a large chunk of this book is just a retelling of Jane Eyre. Same dialogue, same everything. Weird. It did get better towards the end, especially because Emma finally remembers who she is (the second time she enters the story) and changes it. That's when I started getting excited, and in fact, the whole story picked up at that point. The second half of this book is definitely better than the first.
Ready for the good? My inner English nerd loved this, especially because Emma dives into literature and writes a fantastic essay that I wish I had thought of when I was in college. Bertha Mason? So much potential there. There is also a little discussion of Frankenstein, one of my other faves. It all made me miss my literature classes. And I liked that in the second half of the book, there's a lot of symbolism in Emma's real life as well as loads of allusions to Jane's story. Loved that. I thought the posh boarding school setting was done well with some interesting side stories, particularly Emma's roommate Michelle. (Though speaking of Michelle, I thought the Haitian voodoo bit was a little hokey). The bad rich girl was a little too stock character-y for me, but she wasn't too distracting either.
Overall, I read this quickly and enjoyed it. I think fans of Jane Eyre will love some parts and dislike others - kind of like I did. It was a fun way to dive into one of my favorite novels and made me want to read Jane Eyre again - not that I haven't read it a million times.