Ok, so before reviewing this book, I should admit something: I’m a sucker for stories involving rock stars. Almost Famous is one of my favorite movies. I also really love the cheesy flick Rock Star, with Mark Wahlberg, as a guilty pleasure. I love even more the movie Music and Lyrics, in which Hugh Grant plays a washed up pop star. I loved Opal and Nev. I loved Daisy Jones and the Six. I have loved almost every rock memoir I’ve read, including A Dream About Lightning Bugs. So, it should come as absolutely no surprise here that I loved Jessica Anya Blau’s new rock-involved coming of age novel, Mary Jane.
Mary Jane is 14 years old, and though it is the free-loving 70s, she lives a structured existence. She attends private school in a crisply pressed uniform and church every Sunday in flowing dresses. She helps her mom cook, clean, and plant flowers in the yard. They dine at the country club and they certainly do not visit the “bad” part of town (insert pearl clutch here).
But all of that changes when Mary Jane takes a job as a nanny for the summer, for a doctor’s family. What her parents don’t realize is that this doctor is a psychiatrist with a rock star patient. And the patient and his movie star wife have moved in with the family for the summer. Squeaky clean Mary Jane learns a lot about herself, family dynamics, and rock and roll. And of course, a bit about sex and drugs, too. What rock star related story doesn’t involve at least a smidge of sex and drugs?
But not to worry, no one takes advantage of Mary Jane’s innocence here. They love her for it. This isn’t a story that is trying for deep social commentary. It isn’t a cautionary tale. It is simply a warm, fun, beachy read about a girl who starts to understand more about the world beyond the structure her mother has created for her. It feels like a cross between The Wonder Years and Almost Famous. It is a light tale of self discovery with a 1970s rock flair. I devoured it in one day.
***I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher. It was released on May 21, 2021.