Damaged and abused.
Jane Daugherty has survived what can only be described as the childhood from hell. After years of mental, physical, and sexual abuse, she has become a fiercely independent young woman - closed off from human connection. Unable to believe in people or their capability to be kind, she has vowed to build a new life for herself so that she never has to rely on, or trust, others again. At 24-years-old, she is fulfilling this vow, successfully working as the youngest tenure-track professor at the University of New York.
Brilliant and remarkably accomplished, Jane's life takes an unexpected turn when she is reunited with the childhood friend she protected in foster care. Alexa Masterson introduces Jane to the family that adopted her, a family that includes her older brother, Aiden Masterson. Instantly drawn to each other, Aiden and Jane embark on a relationship that will either destroy them both or shape them into the man and woman they were always meant to be. Can what started as lust transform into love? And what will bring about the transformation that they ultimately need?
I'm very excited that I've had the opportunity to read Jane by Michelle N. Onuorah. So far this is my early contender in the book to beat category. Out of the gate I'm recommending Jane, and I'll explain why in just a few. While I have so many things to say, I'll need to start this review off by pointing out a few important things that may or may not be deal breakers for future/potential readers. This book tackles some pretty heavy issues about child abuse and rape. While there are no real scenes portraying these things, it's referenced so reader beware. Another thing that I'd like to point out is that spirituality and God play an important part in the book. This isn't a warning, because frankly there's nothing to "warn" anyone about. While there is a definite message, the book doesn't preach or judge. I urge you not to let this stop you from picking up Jane and reading it. You'll be happy that you did.
We first meet Jane as a teenager in foster care. She's planned and executed a small birthday celebration for her younger foster "sister" Alexa. The two are undeniably close and love each other dearly. It's quickly obvious that Jane goes out of her way to look out for and protect Alexa, and that there is something amiss in the foster care home in which they live. Although Jane loves Alexa, she's anxious and wishes for her quick adoption. When her wish comes true, Jane is left alone in a inconceivably hellish existence waiting to be free of the system. The story fast forwards to Jane as an adult. She's 24, yet extremely focused and mature. She is also a young professor at the University of New York. She's worked hard to get herself where she is and as the youngest tenure track professor at the university, she has plans to secure her future. It's here that she is reacquainted with Alexa. Despite Jane's hesitancy to get close to Alexa, the two develop a friendship. Alexa's life became one of wealth and privilege after being adopted, but she never forgot all that Jane did for her. As she attempts to include Jane in her life, she introduces her to her brother Aiden. Aiden is impressed and attracted to Jane and only wants to get to know her better despite her efforts to keep a distance. The story takes us along on Jane's journey as she reunites with her "sister," develops feelings for Aiden and his family, copes with the demons of her past, and struggles to hold on to all that she's struggled to achieve.
There are so many aspects of this book that I liked, so it's hard to cover them all without giving away any true spoilers. However, if I were to list the top things that I liked they would be:
- The feeling of realism. Actions and reactions, both positive and negative felt authentic. Here is a book that didn't need to fabricate melodramatic responses or behaviors.
- This isn't a book that attempts to tell a story in 100 pages or less. The author gives herself room to create characters that have layers. Because of its length the book allows the reader to see and experience something that feels complete.
- I liked Jane's character, a lot. She's gone through a heckuva lot in her life and although she didn't come out of it unscathed, she came out a fighter. Jane the adult is nobody's victim. Her past has forged her, and in some ways it has stilted her as well. She isn't a shrinking violet or a woman that rages at the world. I imagine that this is a difficult thing for writers - creating a character that comes from a dark background, who isn't so ruined by it that it turns her into an extreme.
- At times I didn't like Jane. That sounds bad considering Jane's history, but it makes sense. Things that happened to her would give her moments of being abrupt, cold, and plain difficult to like. Like I said I loved the character, and for the most part I liked Jane's personality, but there were moments where she felt unlikable. This is great writing, because even in those moments I still cared about her and wasn't washing my hands of the character. I mean really. In real life we have moments where we love someone but just don't like them very much for one reason or another...
-I didn't know what to think about Alexa at first. Honestly, I thought she was going to be the weak link in the story. The overly bubbly, let me compensate for being adopted, perfect girl. While she was some of those things, she was also a lot more complicated and deep than all of that as well. A big kudos to the author for this character!
- The relationship between Jane and Alexa was just as important as the one between Jane and Aiden. These women had true, deep love for one another. Alexa honestly never forgot Jane and has her back always.
-Alexa's adoptive parents have more than just a passing role here. They're genuine people who love their kids and extend that affection to Jane. I love how the father is also fleshed out and the dynamic that develops with Jane.
-Definitely I like Aiden. He's a great character who has a whole lot of depth and growth. You love this guy even though he has a tendency to not think before he speaks. His like and attraction for Jane develops into a deep love and a desire to be more. He's interesting because he's definitely privileged and has been his entire life. He has no real frame of reference when it comes to someone like Jane. That doesn't make him a bad person, but it does make for a character that can grow and mature.
-Last, but not least, there's the relationship between Jane and Aiden. This is no smooth road to happiness. Nope. This is a bumpy journey and yes, spirituality plays a part in straightening things up. Like I said before, there are no manufactured conflicts here, just hurdles you would expect considering all things.
There isn't much that I disliked about Jane. If anything, I felt like she went through too much in her life. Things just didn't have a habit of going right for her, and for a bit there I felt overwhelmed for her. But then that's life isn't it? For some people things never seem to go wrong, and for others they can't seem to catch a break. I hate that there are people who always have bad things happen in their lives. They exist. Unfortunately, those bad things often end up taking their lives. It could have happened to Jane. Yes, this is a fictional character, but life is stranger than fiction and my heart aches for knowing that somewhere there's a Jane who's life didn't turn out as well as the title character here.
My Final Thoughts
Jane is a wonderfully written book that firmly sets Michelle N. Onuorah at the top of my list of favorite authors. Her books are a lovely mix of spirituality and romance that appeals to me. Yes, there are messages in her story. But she doesn't preach at her readers. She incorporates it into heart-wrenching tales of people that feel more human than fictional. Take a chance and read Jane. I believe there are very few people who will walk away disappointed. I surely didn't.
Rating: 5 out of 5
About the Author
Michelle N. Onuorah is the bestselling author of Remember Me, Type N, and Taking Names. She wrote and published her debut book, Double Identity, at the tender age of thirteen and has been writing ever since. A graduate of Biola University, Michelle continues to write and publish under her company, MNO Media, LLC . You can learn more about Michelle at www.mnomedia.com and like her page at www.facebook.com/authormichelleonuorah.
Michelle is giving away three e-copies of Jane to three winners (open INT).
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