I have always loved Little Women, from when I first read it in third grade, and its 2019 adaptation rekindled my inner fangirl. Retellings of this beloved classic are few and far between, but Jo and Laurie was a fun and unexpectedly emotional reimagining of what might have happened if Jo had accepted Laurie’s proposal.
Title & Author: Jo and Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, romance
Publication: June 2020 at G. P. Putnam’s Sons
First Impressions: This sounds absolutely adorable.
Jo and Laurie. Laurie and Jo. The two best friends have always been inseparable, ever since that fateful day when Laurie first caught a glimpse of the March family through the window of Orchard House. Now, after the unexpected success of Jo’s novel, Little Women, and her publisher’s demands for a sequel, it’s Laurie who sweeps her off to Manhattan to cure her writer’s block. But romance is in the air, and when Jo realizes the depth of Laurie’s feelings for her, will she find the courage to give her heart to the boy next door?
And in that moment — sitting on the splintering veranda steps of Orchard House, surrounded by Vegetable Valley, looking up at the first and last great love of her life — Josephine March knew precisely what to do. And even more, she knew she was going to do it.
Risk it. Embrace it. Maybe even, one day, lose it.
Abby the Bookworm
First of all, I would like to make it clear that the hate this book is getting on Goodreads for disrespecting Louisa May Alcott’s intentions and spoiling the original novel is completely unwarranted. I cannot understand the logic of this argument. Are all retellings sinful blemishes on the record of literature? Jo and Laurie is an exploration of a what-if; it is not intended to “correct” the original ending of Little Women. Good grief. Let’s read it before we judge it, shall we?
I had to get that out there. But I digress.
Jo and Laurie is a sugar-sweet reimagining of the relationship between headstrong Josephine March and Theodore Laurence, the boy next door. The will-they-won’t-they romance was frustrating in the best way. Together with Mal and Alina from the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Jo and Laurie are finally teaching me why the friends-to-lovers romance trope is so popular.
The authors incorporate many aspects of Louisa May Alcott’s life into Jo’s, and I appreciated learning about the fictional and autobiographical elements of Little Women in terms of the author’s life. The historical view of New York City was interesting to read about as well.
I admit, while reading the beginning and middle, I was seriously considering giving this book a 2.5 rating. The pacing was slow and nothing really seemed to be happening. But the ending and the depth of Jo’s character that was eventually revealed catapulted this back up to 4 stars.
I sobbed through the last five or so chapters. Jo’s fear of being loved and loving in return was done in a way that was convincing and believable and absolutely heartbreaking. Her eventual acceptance of her feelings for Laurie and the heart-to-heart they have on the veranda were just — 🥰 🥰. ahhhhhhhh. The risk of loving someone, of opening up to them, of making yourself vulnerable to loss — each of the relationships and characters in this book makes it obvious that it is so worth it.
Reading this book, I kept thinking of a quote from A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab.
“Love and loss,” he said, “are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be.”
A sad world indeed.
Abby the Christian Bookworm: PATIENCE
The quality I chose to focus on for this book is something that I think all writers, artists, and creators should adopt. In Jo and Laurie, Jo struggles for much of the book about what to write in her sequel to Little Women. Whenever we struggle to find something to write about or base our work around, we need to be patient. We need to wait for God’s inspiration to hit, to take root in our minds. And in the meantime, pray. As the Amplified Bible says, patience is not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting (Galatians 5:22 AMP).
How about you? Have you read Jo and Laurie? Is it on your TBR?