Title: Jane, Unlimited
Author: Kristin Cahore
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
My Rating: 3 stars
Things in this story felt a little strange straight from the beginning, but not enough that you could put your finger on exactly what was wrong. There was obviously something peculiar going on, but the author did a great job of hinting enough that things became questionable, without giving anything away too early. With that being said, this book can also get confusing due to how abstract and random things can be. I can see how this book could become frustrating and make people not want to finish it. The beginning of the book was hard to get through, and for me this was mainly because the character’s motivations weren’t explained to us, and they all seemed to act with secret intentions. Of course, we learn a lot more about each character and what motivates them as the story progresses, but for the first half of the novel I did struggle with wanting more information instead of being met with super evasive people at every turn. For the most part, I did enjoy how quirky and different the story was. There are a lot of different characters, and they’re all very interesting individuals- I would just recommend making a list of who’s who and how they’re related if you’re not a pro at keeping things like that straight in your head.
– lots of unique characters that I wanted to get to know better
– a fresh take on exploring choices and the different directions they can take us
– plot variety; if you don’t dig the mystery you might continue on to find that you absolutely love the sci-fi plotline
– I had no clue what the actual point was until very far in, and there ended up being 5 points/storylines
– characters lying/evading/being cryptic for no obvious reason; actions and dialog coming from the characters that feels random (character motivations not explained)
– lots of repetition throughout the five different paths of the story, it was hard to change gears between each path’s different genre/focus
At times, the writing style took away from my experience while reading this novel. Everything was written in the third person present tense, and the writing felt simplified and plain. For example, there was a lot of “Jane opens it”, “Jane says”, “Jane thinks”, “Jane follows”, “Jane wants” etc, and it became very repetitive. I was able to ignore it after reading for a bit, but I would have liked a more detailed and varied writing style. We talk about showing and not telling, but in half the paragraphs the author would tell and then show, while in the other half of the paragraphs the author skimped on details that would have been useful.
At about the 1/3 mark, Jane makes a decision and that splits up the story, and the rest of the book is spent following five different versions of what happens next. This book is basically a choose your own adventure, but instead of picking one path out of five, the reader gets to see where Jane is taken by each decision she could have made, from beginning to end. Once we finish each path, the story comes back to the moment of Jane’s decision, and the reader is then taken down an alternate decision’s path. Basically, we get to see every way the second half of the story would have played out, based on which aspect Jane decided to pursue. This worked in some ways and hindered the story in others. With each option, we are given a resolution to the specific path we are following, but a bunch of other threads are left hanging, and it makes each path feel unfinished. The paths are all single minded, and all the other mysteries are basically forgotten once Jane starts investigating a specific one, although as you progress through each you can see some places where they all overlap.
Since the story was broken up into five different sections, or “paths”, I’m going to do a mini-review of each. They each had a different focus and general plot, and were separate enough that I think they should each get some individual attention.
– The Missing Masterpiece – This is a mystery about missing art. Honestly, it was underwhelming. The culprit was obvious from the beginning and the mystery wasn’t very twisty. Things solved themselves when the thief was caught in the act and everything felt very anticlimactic. The characters talked about nonsense and kept putting off telling the truth, keeping things from each other and being evasive for seemingly no reason and only promising to tell the full story at a later date/time. 2/5
– Lies Without Borders – This is a story about spies. It was interesting to see the effect different information had on Jane as it came to light. It was nice to see more of Kiran. Portions of this felt like a long drawn out info dump of an explanation, and some of it seemed very unrealistic- especially how quickly Jane was let in on everything. It also felt unfinished. 3/5
– In Which Someone Loses a Soul and Charlotte Finds One – This is a horror/paranormal story about the oddities of the house. I loved the inclusion of books and the library, and how the books had spooky incorrect endings. Things get super creepy, and the whole section reads like the characters are tripping on drugs. 3/5
– Jane, Unlimited – This is a transdimensional sci-fi story. It has pirates, velociraptors, worlds without rain, and buckets full of kittens. This path was an interesting idea, but didn’t have much of a point beyond exploring that idea. Some things felt random for no reason, although I enjoyed reading about a lot of the things Jane went through. 3/5
– The Strayhound, the Girl and the Painting – This is a portal fantasy. We find out quite a bit more about Jasper the dog. I enjoyed the magical aspect of this story, and the world we’re shown. I think I would have liked a whole book that explored this path better than a book that split everything up. This section felt too short to me, and I wanted more of the characters to be involved. 4/5
Overall, the different endings made the story feel disjointed, and I didn’t care enough about the story to be invested in all of the outcomes. Characters keeping secrets and being evasive for no apparent reason is a pet peeve of mine, and that happened a lot. I did enjoy Jane as a character and wanted to get to know her better. The story and its format were unique and it was fun reading something different for a change, but I’m still undecided on whether having five different endings to the same story in one book aided or hindered the novels appeal as a whole.