Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Reviewed by Karen Lane, Need a Read
In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and listening to Broadway show tunes. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s relieved not to have to go to camp when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s prim mother says. In a respectable house. In a respectable suburb.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s anything but: clutter on every surface, no routine, hollering, public displays of affection, sideburns, nudity and takeout 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 move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane falls in love with this crazy family, especially Izzy, the little hurricane in her charge, and they with her.  She introduces her new household to ironed clothes, an ordered home and a family dinner schedule, and in return has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Caught between the strait-laced lifestyle she’s always known and the progressive future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a completely new idea about what she wants out of life.
"I dare you to find a more winning novel than Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane. Filled with humour and sharpness and so much light, this book introduces an amazing cast of characters, all so unique and finely observed, held together by the clarity of Mary Jane’s voice. It evokes those rare moments when your world is on the precipice of change, almost a dream, and how thrilling it is to push your way toward something new." - Kevin Wilson. Author of Nothing to See Here


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Mary Jane | Need a Read