Title: The History of Jane Doe
Author: Michael Belanger
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Is this part of a series? No.
Publish Date: June 5th, 2018
Seen through the eyes of a youth that has already loved and lost, this story is cut into parts so that he can write out the history: Before Jane, and After Jane. Struggling with the hurt feelings, guilt, unanswered questions and trying to find his place again; Ray is drowning and no amount of therapy, parenting, or friendship can reach him. He always understood history, and wanted to write Jane’s; so that she wasn’t forgotten. But how much did she know about the bright, quirky girl with the sad eyes and secrets? And how does he figure out who he is after Jane?
First, I adored the premise here. Ray is a great character, well rounded and interesting. He loves his odd little town with it’s “haunted house” and “green cows”. He loves the history of it- and history in general. When the pretty new girl, Jane Doe, begins talking to him, he can’t wait to be the one to show her all the oddities her conspiracy-theorist heart yearns for. Along with his geeky best friend, Simon, they make a list of adventures and make a year to remember.
As feelings grow between Jane and Ray, though, he can’t help seeing little things. She won’t talk about her past, her friends there. Sometimes she is sad, distant, and won’t come around for days. He loves Jane, and wants to help her, but what does a teen know about dealing with depression? I actually really appreciated how the author showed Jane; and how Ray was “after”. It seemed believable, honest. He was in pain and confused, angry at having to seek help from a psychiatrist when he wasn’t even sure what needed fixed. The slightly ridiculous interactions between Jane, Ray and Simon helped to lighten the mood; lending a bit of humor and whimsy to what would otherwise be a very heavy piece. In this way it reminded me of John Green’s works, and I think his fans will really like Belanger.
My only complaint is that it followed no real time line. Each chapter was “…Days before/ after Jane” and you had to stop and think. Has this happened yet, do they know about this here? If the memories went in order it would be easier, but one’s memories don’t come like that. We are at the whim of what is important to Ray at the moment. It makes for a choppier reading experience, but a more organic one. For me, this is a five star book.
On the adult content scale, I am a bit torn. There’s very light sexual content, and some language and drinking- all very minor. But there are triggers here: teen depression and self harm. My niece will still be offered this one, but I would definitely either save it for older teens or have an open discussion at the end to talk out their feelings on Jane and if anything could be done differently. I give it a five.
I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. My thanks!
The book comes out 6-05-18. Be ready!
Link to book: