I knew about this book long before it was published. I am a big fan of Sean Patrick Flanery, have been for many, many years (thanks to my mother). So when he started talking about it, I let it be known that I wanted that book! A few weeks ago, I wasn’t having the greatest of days, so when my boyfriend came home he quietly walked up behind me and placed ‘Jane Two’ on the desk beside me. Bad day INSTANTLY better.
Readers, find yourself a partner who surprises you with books on a bad day instead of flowers (even though flowers are a nice gesture).
Even though I’m a fan, I made sure to keep an unbiased mind about it. It wasn’t necessary, I fell in love with the book within the first few sentences.
I’ve met Flanery a few times (the second time he actually carded me because he didn’t believe my first name is Shadow), and I sat in at a Q&A …so these pages reflect the wonderful and charming (and utterly hilarious) man that I have had the fortune of meeting.
The book is based on his life (but several things are changed for everyone’s peace of mind, and also landed this book in the fiction section instead). The book is a romance wrapped up in the tale of a young man growing up. Now, we all know my outlook on romance, but this book is nothing like that. Our protagonist, Mickey, notices a beautiful young girl across the ditch behind his house, jumping on her trampoline with her black-brown hair floating up behind her. The entire book follows his trials to see her, and be noticed by her.
To most, that may sound boring as all hell. And I think written differently it may have been. This book is written as the adult version of Mickey talking about his memories. So instead of a tale about a boy and a girl, we get to see everything Mickey thought and felt, and his elder recollections and realizations (they say hindsight is 20/20). Everyone looks back at their lives and thinks “what if” and “if only”; those feelings are wrapped up in the tale of a boy and a girl.
Because this is told as a memory, there are a few things that are completely different from a standard novel. I think these differences let the story rely more heavily on emotion. Not only the emotions Mickey was feeling at the time, but how he felt while retelling it, and the emotions these elicit from the readers. I’m going to do my best relate this, but I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. So please bear with me.
Looking back in our own memories, I know for myself, memories are distorted with time and heavily influenced by how we felt during …but most importantly, odd things stick out in those memories. I would have been no more than 6 or 7 the last time I was there, but I can remember exactly the smell of the back of the bakery my mother worked in, and I remember the woman who nicknamed me “bolo-ga-na” because I pronounced it funny around her once. This kind of memory recollection seems to be what spurs the story. The city, buildings, and surroundings aren’t in detail like most novels because these things aren’t pertinent to a memory. Instead, we get in clear detail the bike he would drive around the block and the red scarf his mother made him to look like Speed Racer. The story itself doesn’t follow a plot-line like most novels, it’s a string of important memories that shaped Mickey’s entire life. Starting with having to climb the flagpole out front of his school to retrieve Jane’s red and blue 95’s. The memories show Mickey learning to trust and rely on himself, and to never let anyone dictate who he should be.
This brings me to another point that I thought was very interesting. Because the main chunk of the story is told through Mickey when he was 8, the other characters are perceived very differently. Most books, even first person narratives, tell you exactly who their characters are, so you get a good idea of who you are reading about. In this, the bullies are bigger and dumber, cruel teachers are likened to military officers, and the people closest to Mickey seem larger than life. Jane (his unicorn) is raised onto a platform that no one can reach, and carries an air of angelic perfection. They aren’t caricatures (like some stories fall into), you are seeing these people through a child’s eyes.
One of the biggest characters in the book, aside from Mickey himself, was his grandfather. This incredibly wise man shaped the person who he is today, with his lists and his insight. It kind of struck me as hilarious and almost ironic because his Grandaddy reminds me SO MUCH of my mother (who introduced me to Boondock Saints, and through that, Flanery himself). His grandfather’s lessons and his belief’s I have often heard coming out of my own mothers mouth. Even the realizations Mickey learned through the book sound like things my own mother has said to me. I think that’s what made the “coming of age” part of the story hit me harder, because, even though I’m younger than Mickey and Flanery, I’ve learned those lessons in very much the same way.
After Mickey finished middle school, he starts seeing Jane less and less, but his “puppy-love” for her never dwindles. Through college, and life, he never forgets about her. Now, without ruining too much of the story, Mickey finally meets with Jane and gets to sit down and talk to her. This was really interesting to me because finally Jane became a real person. She talked and laughed like a regular person; even though this part wasn’t in great detail, Jane finally lowered from mythical creature status to real woman. Which in my mind, made her even more endearing. While on the subject of not ruining too much of the story, I will say this, I spent most of the book laughing at the antics Mickey gets up to, and the narrative that comes of it, but I spend the last 50 or so pages crying. I had to take my glasses off I was crying so much.
With that being said, I recommend this book to everyone. There are so many lessons in this book that I know a lot of people need to hear (we all need a Grandaddy in our lives!). It’s written so differently than typical novels that it borderlines poetic. The actual plot of the book isn’t something I typically read, but it’s written in such a way I couldn’t put it down.
I will continue to recommend this book until I’m blue in the face.