Goodreads: Jane, Unlimited
Published: September 19, 2017
If you could change your story, would you?
Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”
What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.
Note: There are no plot spoilers in this book, but I do talk about the structure and various genres of the book, so if you are the type of reader who likes to go into novels completely blind and surprised, you may wish to skip this review.
I’m a big fan of Graceling, so I’ve been looking forward to Cashore’s first novel in five years with some excitement. I knew it would be a different type of book for her, since it’s not high fantasy; however, I was fully prepared for the unique structure and blend of genres in the book. In the end, I think Cashore has attempted something beautifully ambitious with the structure, but I’m not fully convinced that the final product melds together in quite the way I want.
The first important point to note about the book is that it begins linearly, but after Part II, it breaks off into different narratives. The idea is that protagonist Jane is faced with the option of following five different people, and whichever choice she makes will lead her path in a different direction. It’s basically inspired by the idea of the multiverse—that there are infinite versions of us/the universe out there, all which split off when we make different decisions in our lives.
Honestly, I quite like this idea. We probably all have the sense that the “big” decisions we make in life matter, that our lives would have gone differently if we had gone to College B instead of College A, or that everything would be different if we had chosen to study engineering instead of art history. However, Jane, Unlimited explores the idea that even the “small” decisions can have large impacts, that it matters whether, right now, you choose to walk down your driveway to get your mail or to stay in your house for another thirty minutes and call your mother.
My issue is that the different narratives Jane experiences got a lot weirder than I was anticipating. The first two options are realistic (if a bit sensational), so I was not expecting the last three narratives to go hardcore horror and sci-fi. One minute I was in the real world; the next I was in the Twilight Zone. All of these stories are interesting, but I didn’t think the book felt as though it went together as a whole, and I actually thought the first two stories were the strongest. I personally would have liked the book better if all five narrative options veered towards realistic contemporary fiction.
Otherwise, however, the book is strong. I have always thought Cashore has strong prose, and she is great at characterization. I enjoyed reading about Jane, as well as the decently large case of secondary characters. To make things even better, there’s an adorably loyal (and intelligent) dog who sticks to Jane’s side throughout her adventures. Add the glamourous setting of a mansion on a private island, where half the residents are art experts, and this book is really great.
I connected with the characters and wanted to know what happened next in the book; I whipped through this story much faster than others I have been reading recently. I just hesitate to give it a higher star rating because the second half of the book seems so disconnected from the first half.