Mary Jane caught my attention when I saw it marketed as Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six – I love both of those so of course I was going to read Mary Jane! I adored this book and will be recommending it to everyone – but be warned, this is more Almost Famous and basically NOTHING like Daisy Jones.
Title: Mary Jane
Author: Jessica Anya Blau
Genres: Historical Fiction
Baltimore, 1970s. Mary Jane is 14 years old and a good girl. She helps her mother around the house, she sings in the church choir, and the only music she’s exposed to is Broadway show tunes. She accepts a summer job as a nanny for a 5 year old girl at a doctors house and her entire world is flipped upside down.
While Mary Jane’s life at home is prime and proper, the Cone’s household is chaotic and freedom. Dr. Cone is a psychiatrist who is spending the summer treating a rockstar to kick his drug addiction – who just so happens to move into the household along with his wife, unbeknownst to Mary Jane when she accepted the job. She learns that not everything she was taught was “bad” and “wrong” really is all that bad – its just what her mother taught her. She is learning there is more to the world than her sheltered upbringing of private school and church.
I adore Mary Jane and Izzy. Mary Jane is only 14 herself, she’s old enough to have responsibility but not old enough to be tainted or jaded by the world, so her views are still pure. Izzy is a delightful little girl full of energy and curiosity, and Mary Jane teaches her as much as she can over the course of the summer as well as looking after her. I loved seeing this story unfold through the eyes of a 14 year old – her voice felt young, but not so juvenile. It was the perfect point of view for this story and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I loved the pacing – it takes place over the course of a summer and it feels both slow and fast. Some moments linger on, and others go by too quickly and its all done perfectly. The rockstar and his wife become key figures in the household and in both Mary Jane and Izzy’s life and they bring excitement and music into the house.
This is a story you should experience for yourself, I don’t want to give too much away, I went into this not knowing much and this will be one of my favorite books of 2021. Do yourself a favor and listen to this as an audiobook – spoiler (not really): there’s an original song performed at the end of the audiobook.
Mary Jane is fantastic as an audiobook and I highly recommend listening to it! The narrator has a sweet, innocent sounding voice which is perfect for a 14 year old character, and she does well for the voice of Izzy (5 years old) as well. There is singing dispersed through the book and in the audiobook, it is sung.
The best part of all – at the very end, theres a full original song with lyrics and music! This is not in the printed hardcover edition, so I found that to be a real unexpected treat! I recommend the audiobook for that alone!
I ended up on 2.6x speed, as I felt this was easy to listen to quickly.
I went into this one having a strong feeling I would like it, but I ended up loving it! If you enjoyed the movie Almost Famous (which, if you haven’t seen, I recommend that as well) and you like music and the vibe of the 1970s, give this one a try. It’s a face paced coming of age in the 1970s with rock music and feel good vibes.