Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet (ARC Review)

Belittled Women book title

Information

Goodreads: Belittled Women
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Publisher for Review
Publication Date: November 29, 200

Official Summary

Sharp and subversive, this delightfully messy YA rom-com offers a sly wink to the classic Little Women, as teenage Jo Porter rebels against living in the shadow of her literary namesake.

Lit’s about to hit the fan. Jo Porter has had enough Little Women to last a lifetime. As if being named after the sappiest family in literature wasn’t sufficiently humiliating, Jo’s mom, ahem Marmee, leveled up her Alcott obsession by turning their rambling old house into a sad-sack tourist attraction.

Now Jo, along with her siblings, Meg and Bethamy (yes, that’s two March sisters in one), spends all summer acting out sentimental moments at Little Women Live!, where she can feel her soul slowly dying.

So when a famed photojournalist arrives to document the show, Jo seizes on the glimpse of another life: artsy, worldly, and fast-paced. It doesn’t hurt that the reporter’s teenage son is also eager to get up close and personal with Jo–to the annoyance of her best friend, aka the boy next door (who is definitely not called Laurie). All Jo wants is for someone to see the person behind the prickliness and pinafores.

But when she gets a little too real about her frustration with the family biz, Jo will have to make peace with kitsch and kin before their livelihood suffers a fate worse than Beth.

Star Divider

Review

Belittled Women has so much going on, and so little of it worked for me, that I worry my review will be as noncohesive as the book.

My first big question is whether the book will be a hit with Little Women fans, a group one assumes would be a major audience for the book. For the first third of the story, however, it’s all Little Women hatred from protagonist Jo. One can understand her sentiments, since she finds it embarrassing to act in the Little Women scenes her family puts on and is sick of being compared to Book Jo instead of being seen as a person in her own right, but I do wonder if readers who like Little Women and picked up Belittled Women because they like it will be on board with this. Later in the book, the author seems to overcompensate for this by having some characters, one of whom never previously showed any knowledge of or interest in Alcott at all, engaged in lengthy debates about her life and various interpretations of her work. Superfans might love this; I’m not sure I did.

I also struggled with the characterization and the relationships between Jo and her sisters. I don’t know if this was supposed to come across as good-natured ribbing and normal sibling rivalry, but I personally thought Jo has very real disdain for Amy and complete contempt for Meg. The idea they love each other deep down and would have each other’s backs in a pinch is hard for me to believe. It also meant the first third of the book was extremely negative, as it largely featured Jo going on about how she hates Little Women alternated with her fights with Amy, where she characterizes her as a self-absorbed brat who uses too much peroxide. She would have argued with Meg, as well, except Meg is characterized as a vain ethereal nothingness, someone without a thought in her head who is never where she is supposed to be and thus largely absent from the first half of the book.

But did I enjoy the plot in spite of these hiccups? Not really. On a surface level, I think it’s fine. Jo chafes against her Little Women-inspired life, meets the reporter and her son from New York City and dreams of something more, tries out some wild things to make her life more meaningful, flirts, argues with her sisters, puts on plays, learns some life lessons in spite of hating that Little Women is often viewed as being all about life lessons. There are scenes that are interesting and doubtless some that might resonate with teens, but for me it felt oddly paced and just didn’t compensate for the other things I didn’t enjoy in the book.

So, unfortunately, this was not for me. I would love to hear how Little Women fans feel about it. Is there too much bashing of the source material? Too much summary of Little Women to help the non-fans keep up? Or do the inserted debates about how sincere Little Women is or how much it was influenced by transcendentalism make up for that? If you’ve read this and have thoughts, definitely let me know in the comments!

And if you’re into Little Women, you can read all the things Krysta has posted about it here (she’s a much bigger fan than I am!).

Briana

8 thoughts on “Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet (ARC Review)

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      The reviews on Goodreads seem pretty polarized, but I interestingly can’t tell if there’s any correlation between how much people like this book and how much they like Little Women. Personally I’m pretty neutral on Little Women, but I thought the book in general just wasn’t well-written.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    The premise of the book sounds interesting but like you said, I don’t think I would want to read a Little Woman-inspired book where the main character doesn’t like it! Some angst would be fine, but if there’s nothing positive at the start, I probably wouldn’t want to continue

    Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.