Saturday 12 June 2021

#BlogTour Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

 It's my turn on the BlogTour Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau.

About the Author

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of US bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and three other critically acclaimed novels, most recently The Trouble With Lexie. Her novels have been recommended and featured on CNN, NPR, The Today Show and in Vanity Fair, Cosmo, O Magazine, and many other US magazines and newspapers. 

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About the book

Set in 1975 suburban Baltimore, Blau’s breakout novel introduces Mary Jane, a sheltered teenage girl whose world opens up when she lands a summer job as the nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house. 

The Cone house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeaway for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife—Jimmy and Sheba— move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

A nostalgic trip into the 1970’s, Mary Jane is a timeless coming of age story about finding yourself, all wrapped up with lots of humour, a dash of teenage rebellion and plenty of rock and roll. 


When confronted with a completely different lifestyle Mary Jane is in a position to both directly compare her parents and her employer's parenting skills. The result is two-fold, she realises she wants something akin to what she knows, but slightly different, and just how much she is a product of her upbringing.

Taking care of a young child, who at best seems a little lost and at worst neglected, helps her to mature emotionally. Seeing the world through the eyes of people who live life without rules and with a sense of abandonment creates doubt and worry. It awakens senses, emotions and desires. It awakens the Mary Jane her parents fear.

It reminded me of the nostalgia and atmospheric read of Emma Cline's Girls, and the empowering chaos of discovery and evolution of Daisy Jones. By setting it in the mid 70s the author also captures the growing differences in society. The recognition of a society seeped in racism and white supremacy, the complete explosion of freedom of the 60s becoming a more decisive movement, and a generation starting to break out of those molds.

It's important to note, especially when it comes to the young child, that certain parenting techniques or attitudes to child rearing would set off alarm bells for social workers in our era. Life didn't evolve around the child, the child slotted into the life the parents led. Leaving them unsupervised, alone and having them present during during moments when children shouldn't be observing and taking everything on board - the norm for the 70s. 

Mary-Jane and her parents represent the old and new generations, the three on one path heading towards a crossroads in life. It also shows the clear divide between what is deemed respectable and appropriate for a girl. That exploring fashion, feelings of desire, sexuality and coming-of-age in general does not equate to a girl or woman being slutty.

Blau writes with a keen understanding of the emotional turmoil and mind-set of a teenage girl. She does so without presenting the usual tropes of the Lolita or demonising the parents. It's a compelling read with a foot in one timeline and the rest of the body surging through to another. Excellent read.

Buy Mary Jane at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins pub date 27th May - Hardback, £20* - also available in ebook and digital audio (with original song). Buy at Amazon com. At Waterstones.

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