Verdict: DEAR JANE's subject matter is dark and troubling, but it's artfully written by Marina DelVecchio, and its protagonist's connection to literature rescues it from being depressing.
Marina DelVecchio’s DEAR JANE is the story of Kit Kat, a young girl from Greece adopted into a cold and distant home. She finds solace in books, particularly in the story of JANE EYRE—like Jane, Kit Kat is a troubled girl who finds nothing but unkindness in her upbringing. Inspired, Kit Kat begins keeping a diary of letters addressed to Jane Eyre, connecting her story with that of the fictional heroine and finding the kinship she needs to survive.
Kit Kat’s story, like Jane’s, is an unhappy one. Her life in Greece was traumatic and full of abusive parents and guardians. Her mother was a sex worker, her father disowned her for a time, and she was forced to protect her baby sister, who was never given a name. When her father gives her up for adoption, she travels to American—but, like Jane’s aunt Sarah Reed, her adoptive mother is cold and unfeeling, treating Kit Kat and her trauma as burdens she’s been saddled with.
The story is dark and unrelenting, the harshness Kit Kat faces sometimes becoming overwhelming, especially for young readers. DelVecchio isn’t unnecessarily graphic in her depictions of Kit Kat’s life, but the story does contain references to childhood sexual assault and physical abuse that may be distressing to many readers. As a child, Kit Kat’s view of the world is also quite limited—she can come off as quite judgy in a way that’s never really addressed.
It’s not a pleasant read, though it is artfully done—DelVecchio is a talented writer, and the distressing parts of the story don’t feel engineered to manipulate the reader. It takes a deft hand to pull off this kind of content without it feeling overly dramatic, but DelVecchio, as Kit Kat, tells the story with such matter-of-factness that it succeeds.
The ending, without spoiling, is bittersweet. Like Jane, Kit Kat’s life is difficult, and things don’t reach a neat and tidy conclusion. She’s not whisked away by a romantic hero, and her abusers aren’t struck down with righteous justice. But to say that the conclusion is unhappy would be incorrect. Kit Kat seeks solace in stories and finds it; DEAR JANE has an appreciation for the power of the written word to connect us to humanity, even when the world denies us that simple need.
DEAR JANE’s subject matter is dark and troubling, but it’s artfully written by Marina DelVecchio, and its protagonist’s connection to literature rescues it from being depressing.
~Melissa Brinks for IndieReader