Saturday, July 11, 2020

Love, Jacaranda

Flinn, Alex. Love, Jacaranda
July 7th 2020 by HarperTeen
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jacaranda is working at a Publix grocery store in Miami. She has been in foster care for a while because her mother is in prison, but is doing fairly well in her current home, and taking control of her own life. When she sings her own version of the store's ditty for one of her elderly, regular customers and another customer posts it on the internet, her performance goes viral. She is contacted by a woman named Vanessa, who says that a rich benefactor has seen her performance and offered to pay for her to go to the exclusive performing arts school in Michigan, Midwestern Arts Academy. Once she is there, she starts emailing the "John Smith" who has paid her expenses. Vanessa also helps Jacaranda buy clothes and fittings for her dorm room. She's self conscious about her background, especially when she meets people like Phoebe, who is very wealthy and entitled. Going by "Jackie" to avoid being recognized from the video, she settles in to life in the exclusive school, reveling in the food and the experiences in the arts, which she had not been able to have in Miami. She eventually meets Phoebe's cousin, John Jarvis Pendelton, III, an "eligible bachelor" over whom the other students fawn. Jacaranda also finds him attractive and nice, and soon the two are spending as much time together as distance allows. In between trips and shows, Jacaranda deals with the competition in her school, performing, and learning about singing and musical theater. She is falling in love with Jarvis, but when she finds out some secrets about him, will the two be able to remain together?
Strengths: Like Jerusha Abbot in Daddy Long-Legs, Jacaranda is able to appreciate many things about her school that the wealthy students are not able to. She embraces her education and tries to fill in the gaps that her life in Miami has created, but also realizes that doing things like working in Publix has given her skills that her well-to-do friends don't have. The romance is gentle and realistic, except for the extreme wealth allowing them to travel all over bit, which is fun for ordinary students to read. The drama surrounding the performances, roommates, etc. is appealing as well. I was impressed with the way that Flinn used names, circumstances and plot from the original and freshened the original with some good twists
Weaknesses: I am always looking for YA romances that are a bit more manageable for middle grade readers; this has one mention of a party where vodka is being drunk and where one girl needs to be removed from a situation where she is too drunk to make good decisions, but otherwise, this is similar to the works of Jennifer E. Smith or Kasey West.
What I really think: My students won't have any idea at all about Daddy Long-Legs, which I reread after reading this so I could compare the two. This was a very nice update, taking into consideration things that were good and bad about the original and spinning this into a fun romance for modern readers. Will purchase for my romance readers.

Webster, Jean. Daddy-Long-Legs
Published 1912 by Hodder & Stoughton

From 6 November, 2008
An orphan girl is sent to college by a college trustee and is instructed to write to him, although he doesn't write back. She joins the social whirl of college, makes friends, and becomes an accomplished writer. She also becomes acquainted with a wealthy young man, whom I suspected early on was in fact the trustee. The movie with Fred Astaire (age 56) and Leslie Caron(age 21) is creepy, but in the book the age difference seems to be less than ten years, and is just a good story about college 100 years ago.  I can see why this remains a favorite among some readers.

1 comment:

  1. I love stories about art schools! I wish I could have sent my kids to one (I would never have had the confidence to go to one), and I love imagining how wonderful it would be. (It just occurred to me that art schools are the Hogwarts of the real world!)