A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jane, Unlimited is an inventive stand-alone book by Kristin Cashore, the acclaimed author of the Graceling Realm series. The main character, Jane, in her late teens, is recently orphaned by the aunt who raised her. Jane is told that her aunt froze to death in Antarctica. Her parents died in a plane crash when she was a baby. The story follows five possible story threads. They all contain a little violence, with occasional gunplay involved. A man and a dog are shot, the man fatally. A woman's arm is crushed and mangled, a man is crushed to death. A character is in a state between life and death at the end of one scenario. Swearing is consistent in the dialogue and includes "f--k." Jane is surrounded by adults drinking but doesn't drink. She kisses both male and female characters, briefly. It's less the mature content and more the complexity and originality of the storytelling that dictates the right reader for Jane, Unlimited. It's a good fit for teens with an artsy and literary bent swaying toward offbeat.
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What's the story?
In JANE, UNLIMITED, Jane is working in a book shop when she sees her old tutor, Kiran. When Kiran finds out that Jane's aunt and guardian has died in Antarctica, Kiran invites her to the family mansion to stay. Jane, a college dropout living with three grad students, immediately accepts the offer. The last promise she made to her aunt was that if she got an invitation to the mansion, a curious house on its own island in the Atlantic, she would not turn it down. She arrives there immediately after the invitation with all her things, including a flock of umbrellas she's been making in her spare time. The house is preparing for its annual gala, and some curious guests and residents are there. She meets Kiran's flirty twin brother, Ravi, the stern head housekeeper, Mrs. Vanders, art dealers, a doctor, the quirky and attractive Ivy, and a basset hound named Jasper who won't leave her alone. It only takes one night where she witnesses the doctor running off with a gun, and one morning, where Mrs. Vanders stares daggers at her, for her to realize the house is full of secrets. After breakfast she has to decide: Should she follow Mrs. Vanders, a little girl in the hall in distress, Kiran, Ravi, or the dog first to find out what's going on? Each path is explored independently, the story restarting completely after breakfast, and each path yields wildly different results.
Is it any good?
Art stealers and dealers, spies, sentient houses, parallel universes, uber-smart dogs, and lots of umbrellas all occupy one of the more inventive young adult novels you'll ever read. Luckily they don't all occupy the book at the same time, or at least not the way the main character, Jane, experiences the story. The story restarts after breakfast five times, each time heading in a totally different direction. And here's some of the genius of this multistory: While Jane is in one scenario, following spies, the house is still groaning about its secrets and the dog is still begging Jane to follow him. The reader has an awareness that they're only getting a part of this very complex puzzle and they're waiting to hear more with every story layer author Kristin Cashore delivers.
Jane, Unlimited isn't for everyone. It's one of those books that will be adored or panned, depending on the reader's openness to the offbeat and whether they reward or shun their favorite authors for taking real risks. This is nothing like the adored Graceling Realm series, fans. Prepare yourself first, and you will be rewarded with mini-velociraptors and so much more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which story ends best for Jane in Jane, Unlimited. What is left unexplored in this scenario? Which scenario ends the worst for Jane?
In the acknowledgements, the author talks about this book's genesis over four years, those that helped her realize the final book, and how. Does this give you insight into the writing process? Do you think all authors take this time and attention with each story?
This book is more challenging to read than the author's Graceling Realm series. Was it worth it? Did you enjoy it as much?
- Author: Kristin Cashore
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Arts and Dance, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Great Girl Role Models, Ocean Creatures, Pirates, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
- Publication date: September 19, 2017
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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