“Unearthly Things” by Michelle Gagnon
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Retelling
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most fabulous—and dangerous—elites.
After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.
Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.
I think I ultimately liked that this story wasn’t a strict retelling of Jane Eyre. Sure there are lots of clever nods to the original story: Bertha is Janie’s childhood toy; Helen is Janie’s only friend; The fortune teller; The fire. The list could go on and on but you get the idea. It’s fun for fans but it’s also not annoying or distracting to non-fans.
The story was a bit all over the place though. The first half or so of the story is a pretty basic fish out of water. Our Janie is a Filipina surfer girl from Hawaii so the glitz and glamour of San Francisco is a bit overwhelming. There’s some mystery and suspense mixed in for good measure. The last third or so of the book takes a weird turn. The author tries to embrace Eyre’s Gothic feel but doesn’t fully capture the magic. It’s just more ridiculous and eye roll worthy than anything.
The characters were pretty flat. I was never able to really connect with them. The motivation for the characters wasn’t there. It felt like their motivations were there to move the story along more than natural responses to the situations at hand.