Jo & Laurie

This clever, satisfying and well-researched retelling of the 150-year-old novel Little Women reimagines the relationship between literary, nontraditional second sister Jo March and the charming and wealthy boy next door, Laurie. Jo & Laurie should bring sweet peace to the legions of fans who have despaired over Louisa May Alcott's authorial decisions regarding the love lives of the March girls in the original novel.

In the spinoff, Jo herself--not Alcott--is struggling to produce a sequel to her surprise smash "collection of domestic moments." (The original novel was published in two parts.) Money, family and relationship concerns alternately drive and paralyze the 18-year-old "authoress," who feels pressure from her editor and fans to prettily wrap things up for the (barely) fictional sisters. Everyone must be married off, they say, but Jo resists even as she grapples with her own feelings about love.

Authors Margaret Stohl (Icons; the Beautiful Creatures series) and Melissa de la Cruz (The Queen's Assassin; Alex & Eliza trilogy) masterfully blend historical language and familiar Little Women details into Jo's hilarious and poignant attempts at rewrites, ultimately creating a parallel world where things might have gone a little differently for the March family. Readers with a contemporary feminist bent will appreciate Jo's fury at the occasional dismissive, trivializing attitudes toward women that several of the characters exhibit, as when her editor reminds her that readers "want their little whalebone-corseted hearts set afire." Traditionalists may balk, but romantics will swoon at the conclusion of the highly entertaining Jo & Laurie. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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