You may have noticed that I finally finished Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It took me so long to finish because it is a bad book. Yes, that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Little Women and Me follows the story of Emily, a middle sister in the real world who picks Little Women for her English paper. The assignment is to pick a book, any book, and find something you’d like to change and why. Emily can’t decide between saving Beth or keeping Amy and Laurie from marrying and instead bringing Jo and Laurie together. Suddenly, Emily finds herself in the middle of the Little Women world, agin as the middle sister (Meg and Jo are older, Beth and Amy are younger). Some of you are probably thinking, duh Indigo, it sounded like a stupid book to begin with, but, I had high hopes. Okay, maybe not high hopes, but higher expectations than what the book provided.
First, I’m a sucker for time travel stories. Anyone ever seen Lost in Austen? It’s a similar premise in that a girl gets sucked into the time of Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice. As a history nerd I’ve always wondered how I would react in certain historical situations–what happens when you get your period?? There are no tampons. Or even how I would react to the manners of the time, like what is inappropriate behavior or conversation etc.
Secondly, Little Women is one of my all time favorite books. If I were to get sucked into a historical book I think this one, any Austen or Anne of Green Gables would be my top choices. Obviously, Harry Potter is number one (I want to play quidditch and hang out with Hagrid and Luna!) Anyways, to see the story of Little Women through another person’s eyes, especially a modern person’s, was very intriguing to me.
However, I don’t think Baratz-Logsted really liked the book, or was even all that familiar with it. In her author’s note she mentions reading a chapter, then writing her chapter based on the original’s. While that makes a certain amount of sense–you don’t want to miss anything–if I were to write this book, I’d already have a pretty good idea of how my new character would interact with the established cast. I’ve read Little Women enough times to understand each character. I’ve empathized with all four girls at one point in my life or another. I feel like Baratz-Logsted didn’t understand the characters, and instead took a caricature and used that instead of really researching. For example, yes, Beth is the shy, not so smart sister. Never in Little Women does Louisa May Alcott actually suggest that she is stupid. She may not be the brightest march in the calendar, but she isn’t totally lacking. Baratz-Logsted’s Beth on the other hand seems to actually have some sort of mental disability. Same goes with Jo, Meg and Amy. All there is to Baratz-Logsted’s Jo is the brash girl who says “Christopher Columbus!” and writes in the attic. And don’t even get me started on Laurie. He has absolutely no personality. His character is there to provide conflict between Emily and Jo.
The lack of characterization in the original cast of characters bothered me, but what bothered me most, was Emily’s lack of character. I’m sure it’s hard to rewrite a much-loved book, and mess with established characters. But in the case of Emily, Baratz-Logsted had free rein. Yet, one chapter Emily acts and thinks one way and in the next she’s practically a different character, talking about how her experiences changed her. How did they change her? What exactly made that change? Then the next chapter comes and she’s back to her original snotty self. And so it goes on and on for the whole book.
There is a twist at the end, which I wasn’t expecting. I won’t ruin it for you, in case you still want to read this book. While I wasn’t expecting this particular plot twist, I’m not sure I enjoyed it.