Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
It was the 1970s. All around Mary Jane were signs of the times: sex, drugs, rock n roll. But at 14, and the only child in a stable, conservative, suburban American family, Mary Jane viewed it all from the safety of a long lens. That is until she became a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor.
It was just down the street, but the house Mary Jane enters on her first morning as a nanny might as well have been in a different universe. Messy, chaotic, haphazard … nothing at all like the quiet, well-ordered, stable home she’s grown up in. And that’s BEFORE the rock star and his movie star wife move in for the summer to quietly allow that rock star to dry out.
Mary Jane relies on her upbringing to help implement a new daily schedule, trips to the market, and even family dinners. She does so without the guidance of her mother, who would be horrified to know the disarrayed alternate lifestyle her daughter was being exposed to.
But Mary Jane feels at home with this new family and their summer guests. She feels helpful and needed and allowed to express herself. She listens to the music she wants, wears the clothes that are popular (as long as she quickly changes before heading home), and considers other ways of life.
As the summer wears on, Mary Jane begins to see that life holds so much more possibility than she once realized, and she is faced with a future that might be starkly different than she once envisioned. But will her mother and father allow it?
Equal parts exciting and comforting, reminiscent and forward-thinking, “Mary Jane” hit all the right notes. It’s a sweet coming-of-age story that feels a bit like going home, sending you back to your teen years, and all of the thrilling fear that goes with becoming your person. It was everything a good novel should be, and it kept me reading long after the lights should have been out at night.