Goodreads: More to the Story
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Jameela Mirza is excited to be chosen as feature editor of her school newspaper, but the editor-in-chief keeps rejecting her ideas. She’ll never be able to make her award-winning journalist grandfather proud if she is not allowed to write the hard-hitting stories she wants! Then one of her sisters becomes ill, and Jameela’s world changes overnight. She wants to a good journalist, a good friend, and a good sister–but she might be juggling too much.
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of my favorite books and I have read a fair number of contemporary retellings. However, few have come close to capturing the spirit of the original like Hena Khan’s More to the Story. While it can be tempting to try to deliver the exact same plot line as Alcott, just updated with modern references, Khan goes beyond this to create an original work that is clearly inspired by Little Women, but does not try to be Little Women. And that is its magic. More to the Story emphasizes family relationships, friendship, and self-discovery to create a work that pays homage to Alcott with its depiction of modern girlhood, while still delivering its own compelling narrative.
More to the Story focuses primarily on Jameela, a middle school student who dreams of becoming a famous journalist, just like her grandfather. However, while she longs to write hard-hitting stories for her school paper, the editor-in-chief keeps rejecting her ideas in favor of personal interest stories. Just like Jo March, Jameela has to figure out how to identify her own flaws and control her temper, if she is going to pursue her dreams. This self-realization flows naturally from the story, giving readers a well-rounded protagonist with a satisfying character arc.
Also naturally embedded in the story is a heartwarming emphasis on family and friendship. Jameela’s three sisters are all rather different, but the family accepts and supports each one. There is never any question that they would do anything else. And this love extends outward, embracing Jameela’s extended family, and her friends. There is a real sense of coziness and belonging to More to the Story, which becomes increasingly important as Jameela realizes one of her sisters is very ill, and will need all the support the community can give. The book does not shy away from difficult subjects, but it is ultimately uplifting–something I think many readers would appreciate just now.
More to the Story will delight fans of Alcott looking for a modern take on Little Women that captures its charm. However, the book is also an engaging story in its own right, one that will appeal to readers who love books focused on the bonds between sisters and the desire find one’s voice and use it for good.