Friday, March 13, 2020

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?


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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I read and loved Deadly Little Secret and the rest of the Touch series by Stolarz, so I was stoked to see she'd written something new! As a parent, Jane Anonymous was hard to read. I don't know what I would do if my child was abducted𑁋just thinking about the possibility makes me nauseas and panicky.

This book is told from Jane's perspective (she's a somewhat unreliable narrator, and doesn't remember everything that happened to her while she was held captive), although the main character doesn't use her real name or places. She's journaling about the events that happened before, during (Then), and after (Now) she went missing, so we live through her experiences and how she remembers them. We're told at the start that names and places will be altered to protect her identity, and I thought it was a really interesting way to tell the story.

My one issue would be the secondary characters (especially Jane's mom), because I refuse to believe a parent would be so daft. Jane's mother wanted her daughter to simply pick up where she left𑁋go out with friends, see an old (sort of) boyfriend, and even go to prom. For fuck's sake, your only child was missing for seven months𑁋went through something unimaginable𑁋and you want her to go dancing?? It doesn't take a genius to realize that things are not going to be the same, and it's ridiculous to think otherwise. Captivity changes people. It's safe to assume that a person would not jump back into their old life, so I got increasingly frustrated when her mother kept pushing her to do things the old Jane would do. Her mother's constant disappointment was a drain on Jane. She felt responsible for how other people were feeling, and it was heartbreaking to read how that made her feel about herself.

Jane kept telling people what she wanted, and she tried to express what she needed from them, but they were too busy trying to push their own agendas. She was the victim, not them. Her mental stability should have trumped their petty priorities. Even her best friend, Shelly, wanted Jane to talk about what happened. She asked very probing questions𑁋and thought she had a right to𑁋because they used to be close and talked about everything. Where was her compassion? Was her need to know more important than Jane's recovery? Her feelings? She should have been allowed to talk when she was willing, and not pressured into discussing the gruesome details of what transpired while she was missing. (Also, other friends calling her bratty because she wanted to stay home and not hang out with them, was stupid and selfish.)

Additionally, once she does return home, strangers are pressing her for information. Reporters were outside of her house, news vans, friends of the family, neighbors - - leave the girl alone! You can be concerned from a distance. Make a meal for the family and discreetly leave it on the doorstep. Don't do something just for the sake of getting the "inside scoop". Also, don't walk up to someone and tell them how inspiring or brave they are. They don't want to hear that shit. People who are actively suffering (and even people who aren't) don't want to hear how their traumatic experiences have made you feel. They're likely trying to get through life one day at a time, and your "well-meaning" words are only making it more difficult. Besides, there's no way you could possibly relate to what they've been through, unless you've gone through something similar yourself. Even then, no two situations are the same.

Basically, bad things happen to people, and it's not your job to sniff out the details. Leave people alone so they can heal and work towards some semblance of a normal life. If they want to talk, they'll talk. I wish the secondary characters in this book had been more supportive and understanding, yet even the therapists seemed to fail at having a clue. It's their job, and they still managed to make Jane feel unheard. It was saddening to see what she had to endure even after her escape. There was one person that mad Jane feel like she could breathe, and I wish there had been more interactions between them.

There are a few revelations that were surprising to Jane, but that seemed obvious from an outsider's perspective. A couple of details here and there didn't make sense, so I started crafting my own version of events alongside Jane's. Eventually the two overlapped (when Jane is presented with irrefutable evidence), and while I wasn't too surprised, I thought the end result was well-crafted. I felt Jane's fear and uncertainty, her convictions and subtle strengths. She's a character you want to rage for. Stolarz's story was believable, brutal, and something that will stay with me for a long time. (★★★★☆)

21 comments:

  1. That book sounds really messed up. I haven't read it and I feel for her. Reporters in real life disgust me. They get right in someones face and ask them crazy questions.

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    1. You get to read about her being abducted, and it was really intense. As a parent, it made me sick to my stomach. I kept picturing my kids, and what I would do in their situation, ugh. Reporters can be effective, but they can also be super big jerks.

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  2. I had this one from the library but had to return it before I had a chance to read it (and now the library system is shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19 and I can't get it back. Boo!). This sounds like a tough read and I feel all ragey on Jane's behalf just thinking about it.

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    1. I think we're all struggling with a lack of library access, and it's making us twitchy, haha. I haven't been able to take the girls to story time, and my son keeps asking to check out the next Goosebumps book. It's sad. I hate this for them. Bummer you had to return this one before getting a chance to read it! If you want to borrow my copy, I can mail it to you! Shoot me an email or DM. <3

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  3. I guess that, if this book's aim was to stir a strong reaction in the reader, it succeeded! It sounds like it meant to show us how much our perspective about the "normality" of our life can be distorted until a crisis comes up and forces us to see what lies behind (since you mentioned Jane's family and her friend basically not showing any empathy). That's a scary thought!

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    1. Her friends and family didn't understand what she went through, and they no longer knew how to interact with her. I think it was easier for them to wish for something that was no longer possible. Jane couldn't be who she was before she went missing, because the experience changed her at her core. It was definitely an interesting perspective, and it did stir strong emotional responses and reactions. I think you'd like it!

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  4. I do love this author. I haven't read anything by her in awhile. The mom does sound a bit delusional in some regards. hah

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I was surprised when I saw she'd written this one! I hadn't seen anything new from her in ages! It makes me want to re-read the Touch series. The mom wanted something impossible, and she wasn't listening to what Jane was saying. I think the event broke her as much as it did Jane. Losing a child, and then getting them back almost a year later... I can't even begin to fathom what that would be like.

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  5. I can understand friends not understanding her and what she needs when she comes back, but that her mum doesn't, is genuinely weird. This is one I've been looking forward to for ages, so I'm thrilled with your review!

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    1. I hated that her friends seemed to want the details of her abduction, like that was more interesting that having their friend back. They were terrible when Jane didn't want to hang out with them, and I thought that was a tad unbelievable. She was abducted, missing for months, obviously she's not going to jump back into her old life. Her mom not understanding was weird, but I guess she was equally lost when her daughter returned. She wanted things to be normal because she thought that was best for Jane, and I don't think she wanted to linger on why her child might have come back changed.

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  6. I don't know this author, but I adore everything about this book -- I think it's such an intense, emotional read -- though the mum's reaction remains weird!

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  7. How interesting. It's been a while since I read a book with an unreliable narrator. I might have to try this one out!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I hope you have a chance to read this soon! Based on other things you've read, I think it's right up your alley! :)

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  8. Great review Lindsi! I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe during this health crisis!

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    1. Thanks! We're trying! The kids are haaating being kept at home. Walks through the neighborhood just aren't cutting it anymore. They want to go and DO THINGS.

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  9. Wow this sounds quite good! I would have been so made for Jane, too. And the worst part is, I bet stuff like this happens ALL the time, which is so sad. Probably it was too hard for the mom to like, actually admit that nothing was going back to the way it was, so she was just pushing Jane out of her own denial, which is still complete crap. Also people are super selfish! I will definitely need to get this one at some point, it sounds so good!

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    1. You're probably right. I don't even want to look up the statistics, because any percentage or number would be too high. I hated how selfish the secondary characters were, but I'm sure they didn't know how to act around her either. The knew who she was before, they knew what happened to her, and they were lost when it came to interacting with her after. Jane didn't make it easy, which isn't her fault, she was trying to heal in her own way. They should have given her space and been more understanding of her situation. I hate that they made her feel bad for not being a certain way. Her mom was hurting, I know she felt just as lost, but pushing Jane to do something she wasn't ready to do... a parent should know better.

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  10. I think the attitudes of the secondary characters would grate on me. As a mom, the subject scares the hell out of me, too! I do feel bad for any mother in the situation, but her reactions don't sound realistic. Glad to hear you enjoyed the story! :)

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    1. So. Much. Grating. I don't know how they could have been so selfish and clueless. I cannot even begin to imagine what a mother would feel in a situation like that, and I hope it's never something I have to experience. The thought alone makes me sick. I just wish she hadn't pushed her daughter so hard to be something she no longer was. Obviously the ordeal changed her on a very deep level, and I wish her mother had been more understanding.

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  11. This sounds intriguing. I usually don't read books like this, but next year I am going to book graze and only read for myself, so if I stumble across it again next year I might give it a whirl! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 👍✨

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless