by Kristin Cashore
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
I was intrigued by this advance review in an email newsletter from Publisher’s Weekly, which described it this way: “Kristin Cashore’s first novel in five years is a fantasy—and a science fiction story, and a thriller, and a mystery, and a horror story. Jane, Unlimited unfolds during a highly eventful weekend at an island mansion, in five different genres.” By the time the hold came in for me, I had (as usual) forgotten that premise, remembering only that something about it had intrigued me. In most cases, that’s fine, but in this case, I would have found a refresher on this premise very helpful. So my advice to anyone just picking this one up is to keep this in mind: Jane has five parts, each intended to be written in a different genre. Because the first genre was mystery, I read the next few expecting them to also be mysteries and to interlock with the first one in different ways, so it was a bit jarring when they each just… ended. But at some point I caught on and was much more satisfied once I did.
One thing I really liked about this book was how it challenged many of my assumptions at every turn. In terms of sexuality, race, and class, Cashore does a masterful job of addressing each in ways that poke at the status quo. One of the first things I noticed, for example, was that characters’ descriptions included race, even if they were white. (WHAT?!?!?! I know. But white people are the default, right? Why should we specify unless they’re not white???) It’s something I think about often, and I’m glad to see a writer putting this into practice. I’m also sad to realize again that it’s not anything I’ve seen before, but I do look forward to seeing it more in the future.
Jane has a romantic interest in several of the stories (the same person) and it was cool to hear her reflect in one of them that she couldn’t see herself jumping into bed with another of the characters, and why, and that she was comfortable with that expression of and attitude toward where she was with sex at that point in her life (18 years old). It was also interesting that she ended up with the same person each time, and one of many many things that this book gave me to chew on for a while.