August 30, 2017

Choose Your Own Adventure • Jane, Unlimited

Jane is feeling a little lost in life after the loss of her beloved Aunt Magnolia, professor, deep sea photographer and her mother figure. When an old acquaintance – Kiran Thrash - randomly runs into her and invites her to attend a gala at her family’s island mansion Tu Reviens, Jane finds herself accepting in honor of a promise she made her Aunt. But Tu Reviens is not at all what it seems, and Jane will find herself faced with a choice that branches out into five potential lives where her choices will either ask a price or offer a reward.

Jane, Unlimited book cover
PLOT? I honestly had no idea what Jane, Unlimited was about prior to hearing Kristin Cashore explain it at the Penguin Teen Breakfast I attended during BEA/BookCon week. She basically described it as a girl heading to this isolated island mansion who, in one moment, is faced with five different possible choices. The reader is given the opportunity to explore the outcome of each choice Jane could potentially make, and each is a mini-story that falls into a different genre. It’s a simple structure, but I can only admire how intricate the plotting was. Cashore really manages to make all five stories cohesive in tone, but different in feel; she weaves in common details and characters, but still makes everything feel very new with each new section. It was odd and unexpected and very, very strange – but I was into it.

CHARACTERS? If I were going to be a little nitpicky about this novel, it would be in relation to the characters. I liked reading about them, but I never fully connected to any person in any of the stories. They were interesting, but they felt almost like caricatures (the secondary characters) or an inhabitable body (in Jane’s case). I wanted to specifically talk about how I read from Jane’s perspective. While I normally crave strong character connections (that put me in their mindset but still make them feel like a separate person), I could let it slide in this case. I read the entire novel as if I were Jane, and I were the one facing these choices and their results, so it was a refreshing reading experience.

WRITING? I find the structure of Jane, Unlimited fascinating. I can only imagine how much work went into fleshing out what started as a choose-your-own-adventure tale into something that’s an actual novel about a character who ends up experiencing five different possible lives. There’s a consistency to the details, even as more is revealed about people, things, places and situations. In addition to the careful structure construction, I liked that each scenario tackles a different genre. It’s a whole spectrum of things, which I sort of expected but never imagined would be executed the way it is, and I was really enthralled.

OVERALL? I liked Jane, Unlimited. It is, admittedly, a very strange novel, with a structure and a story that require the reader to really be willing to test the very limits of their concept of reality and to let go of any expectations they have going into it. While it might not necessarily work for every reader (especially for those readers who love and yearn for another Graceling-type tale), it worked for me. 

FAVORITE BOOK GENRE? I try to read books from different genres (with the exceptions of horror, since I’m a total scaredy-cat, erotica, since I’m not necessarily into it, and thrillers, since they freak me out), so it’s hard to pinpoint what genre is my favorite. If I were forced to choose, I’d go for fantasy every time. There’s something incredibly satisfying about entering a well-constructed imaginary universe, falling in love with magical systems and hierarchies, and finding characters with extraordinary skills or magical abilities to enjoy. (That being said, if you look at what genre I read the most, it would actually be contemporary.)

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books | Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Source: ARC received at BEA 2017 (Thanks!)


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