Friday, July 20, 2018

The History of Jane Doe, by Michael Belanger

Author Michael Belanger's debut novel The History of Jane Doe is a decent read-alike recommendation for anyone who loves the writings of John Green and wants something pretty much exactly like a Green novel (and I do mean exactly).

Raymond is your typical nerd whose sole passion in life is collecting obscure historical facts. Particularly those having to do with his town of Burgerville, which is famous for being home to mythical green cows. His life has thus far been boring until the New Girl shows up. Jane is mysterious, alluring, and has a tragic air about her Ray can't quite put his finger on. Her arrival seems like a miracle...especially when she picks Ray over the more popular choices to be her best friend and, eventually, her boyfriend. 

Jane becomes Ray's new reason for getting out of bed in the morning and the two have random and quirky adventures together. But Jane is hiding some Big Tragedy from her past. Something she won't talk about. And that secret is slowly wearing her down.

Of course it's only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and things spiral downward. 

I won't spoil anything, but I bet you can guess what's going to happen. Especially if you've read John Green's Looking For Alaska, which I was reminded of several times over the course of reading Jane Doe. In fact, this book was so similar it felt like a reboot of Alaska.

Unfortunately, Jane Doe wasn't nearly as good as Alaska. The plot was highly predictable and I easily guessed all of its secrets well before they were naturally revealed to me (and I promise I didn't peek ahead). Characters were more stereotypes than fleshed-out people. There was the Emo Male Protagonist, the Quirky Best Friend, and, of course, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl With LOTS of Baggage who became the Emo Male Protagonist's reason for living. This made it difficult for me to connect with, or have any sympathy for, any of them--even after the Big Tragedy was revealed. 

Overall, The History of Jane Doe wasn't terrible. It just wasn't anything new or exciting. It's been done before and done better at that.


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