Review: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Summary: “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old getting ready to start her senior year. She never would’ve imagined that a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life. Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: 4/5 stars

The day after I picked up this book, I read the news stories about Sarah Everard, a London woman who was murdered by a police officer on her walk home. Women across the globe bellowed their anger and hurt, because the truth is that it could have been any one of us. We’re constantly on guard around men. We carry pepper spray and hold our keys between our fingers on our walks home. We stay in clusters and have to keep our hands over our drinks, just in case. It’s always just in case, because the reality is that men are capable of and willing to prey on us, hurt us, even kill us, the second we let our guard down.

And that’s exactly what happened to the main character in Jane Anonymous. “Jane” is an innocent 17-year-old who runs to the shop she works at to pick out a gift for her best friend’s birthday when a man approaches and kidnaps her. The story is told in alternating timelines, one during Jane’s abduction and the other after she escapes captivity and tries to gain some control and normalcy of her new life.

This is a heartbreaking story for obvious reasons, but it also amplifies how much guilt and blame Jane carries on herself. Throughout the book Jane speculates if maybe she could have done something differently to prevent her kidnapping. Jane’s friend blames herself for coming home too early; her mother blames herself for not driving Jane to the shop; her father blames himself for sleeping in that morning. The weight of Jane’s abduction obviously severely impacts everyone around her, but Jane still sees her abduction as her own burden.

The man who took her seemed friendly and harmless, and she bought into his facade, which is how he was able to corner her. But it’s not fair to say her naivety caused her kidnapping, because in an ideal world, women should be allowed to trust strangers to some extent. We shouldn’t be worried that every man we pass on the street might harm us. We shouldn’t be afraid to turn someone down. We shouldn’t have to be on guard 24/7 just in case.

Jane was an innocent teenager who was unlucky enough to be chosen and targeted by “the monster,” as Jane refers to him. That was one piece of this book that I wish had been done better. Yes, the man who kidnapped her was a monster for his actions, but more than that, he was a man. I felt that turning him into a monster took away from the reality of the situation. Monsters are something else, something frightening and horrible and capable of evil, but most importantly, mythical. The difference is that men are real and capable of doing terrible things to women.

Aside from the obvious anger at Jane’s captor, I was frustrated with how everyone in Jane’s life expected her to just revert back to her normal self and fall into her old habits. Her relationship with her best friend is tarnished, and her parents are demanding and forceful that she keep up with the routine of her old life. Despite my frustration with those characters, I know that can sometimes be a realistic reaction from the captive’s friends and family, which made the story feel all the more genuine. That’s the biggest reason for giving a high review: I felt that this was truly a realistic story of a girl being held captive and returning to her life after her escape.

Because of the context of this story, I don’t know that young-adult is the right category to put it under, but I also don’t know that it should be classified as mystery/thriller either. This isn’t thrilling and enticing. This is real life, and it’s genuinely terrifying. Maybe horror is a more fitting genre.

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