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Mary Jane

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"Almost Famous" meets Daisy Jones and the Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her strait-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer. In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane lov "Almost Famous" meets Daisy Jones and the Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her strait-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer. In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Show Tunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house. The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, IMPEACHMENT: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal 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 introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be. 


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"Almost Famous" meets Daisy Jones and the Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her strait-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer. In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane lov "Almost Famous" meets Daisy Jones and the Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her strait-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer. In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Show Tunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house. The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, IMPEACHMENT: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal 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 introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be. 

30 review for Mary Jane

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    ***NOW AVAILABLE, DON'T MISS THIS ONE*** 4 ½ rounded up. I would not compare this book to another as it can stand on it’s own merit!! This was a refreshingly fun and ultimately hopeful book, perfect to read right now. It isn’t easy to write in the voice of a child but this author gets it all right, Mary Jane is 14 and Izzy is 5. The summer that Mary Jane is 14 she gets asked to nanny for the Cones. They will be having some guests staying with them and would like Mary Jane to be Izzy’s nanny for th ***NOW AVAILABLE, DON'T MISS THIS ONE*** 4 ½ rounded up. I would not compare this book to another as it can stand on it’s own merit!! This was a refreshingly fun and ultimately hopeful book, perfect to read right now. It isn’t easy to write in the voice of a child but this author gets it all right, Mary Jane is 14 and Izzy is 5. The summer that Mary Jane is 14 she gets asked to nanny for the Cones. They will be having some guests staying with them and would like Mary Jane to be Izzy’s nanny for the summer. Bored at home with mostly her books as friends she jumps at the chance to do something different, be somewhere different! SHE IS IN FOR QUITE AN EDUCATION!!! Our super star, Mary Jane, came across as a bit naive but considering how she was raised and attending a super strict school, it was believable. Izzy, the daughter of a psychiatrist and his wife, is a happy, carefree little girl, wise beyond her years. She was not always looked after by her parents properly but they did show her a lot of love. The Cones are huggers and kissers and it takes a while for Mary Jane to adjust The Cones looked like an average well off family from the outside, but once inside the house Mary Jane is speechless. She looks around and sees books, toys and clothes piled everywhere, stacked everywhere, she can hardly SEE THE FLOOR IN IZZY’S ROOM. Mary Jane’s parents are very strict and don’t show much emotion. Her mother takes good care of her but doesn’t really encourage to grow, try new things or be herself. She loved music and that was the one thing that her mother shared with her. The Cone’s are opposites in a very extreme way. They see life differently and also each have some unfulfilled dreams. But they hug and kiss Izzy, play with her and sing with her, it’s a HAPPY HOUSE!!!!!!!!!! On one of the last weeks of summer, everyone, including Mary Jane go to a beach house. So many fun and happy days and nights!! With our rock star involved we know there is going to be a point at which these two couples collide. Unfortunately some of this is all witnessed by Mary Jane. O.K. I’m going on too long. This is just great storytelling with characters I didn’t want to let go of. I liked the ending. I think it allows the readers to decide for themselves what will happen next!! I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Click here to hear my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive. This is an adorable coming-of-age story set in 1975 Baltimore. Mary Jane Dillard, the title character, is a 14-year-old girl working as a summer nanny in a rather eccentric household; Two celebrities come to stay at the house in which she's working for the summer and Mary Jane ends up having the most life-changing time of her young life. This is a relaxing, sweet story and I loved it to bits. Click here to hear my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive. This is an adorable coming-of-age story set in 1975 Baltimore. Mary Jane Dillard, the title character, is a 14-year-old girl working as a summer nanny in a rather eccentric household; Two celebrities come to stay at the house in which she's working for the summer and Mary Jane ends up having the most life-changing time of her young life. This is a relaxing, sweet story and I loved it to bits.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up . This is a great summer read, a coming of age story of a fourteen year old girl in the mid ‘70’s set in Baltimore, MD. It is though, reflective in a broader sense of what was happening in the country, the time of “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. The novel touches on some serious topics such as drug addiction, anti semitism, racism, but the touch is light. Mary Jane comes from a picture perfect home, or so it seems. When she takes on a job as a nanny for a the five year old da 3.5 stars rounded up . This is a great summer read, a coming of age story of a fourteen year old girl in the mid ‘70’s set in Baltimore, MD. It is though, reflective in a broader sense of what was happening in the country, the time of “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. The novel touches on some serious topics such as drug addiction, anti semitism, racism, but the touch is light. Mary Jane comes from a picture perfect home, or so it seems. When she takes on a job as a nanny for a the five year old daughter of a psychiatrist and his wife, Mary Jane finds herself in a world that couldn’t be further from her own life. The Cones’ home is messy; Mrs. Cone doesn’t cook, doesn’t wear a bra and Dr. Cone is taking in for the summer an addicted rock star and his famous actress wife to help him through recovery. Instead of running out the door, Mary Jane comes to love this “family” as they do her. What ensues that summer is funny, sad at times and heartwarming as Mary Jane learns what it’s like to say “I love you”, something her parents never say, learns some things about herself. I found this to be an enjoyable and entertaining story. A lighter read was just what I needed. Loved the ending. I received a copy of this book from Custom House through Edelweiss.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5 What a delightful story. Its been a while since I read a book that made me smile and that upon finishing I felt content, satisfied. A coming of age story with a young fourteen year Mary Jane, whose life to date is organized regimented, an only child who is ignored by her father. This will, in one summer, change when she is allowed to be the helper, nanny to a four year old, whose father is a psychiatrist. The difference between her home, and her work place, couldn't be more different. The fr 4.5 What a delightful story. Its been a while since I read a book that made me smile and that upon finishing I felt content, satisfied. A coming of age story with a young fourteen year Mary Jane, whose life to date is organized regimented, an only child who is ignored by her father. This will, in one summer, change when she is allowed to be the helper, nanny to a four year old, whose father is a psychiatrist. The difference between her home, and her work place, couldn't be more different. The freedom she experiences the responsibilities she undertakes, raises her self confidence, but also show her the person she has inside herself. A wonderful, musical return to the seventies, as well. When a rock star, being treated for heroin addiction and his famous wife move in for the summer, all bets are off and Mary Jane will learn many different ways to live. There are serious issues here, sexual situations, but all are handled in a often humorous manner, friendly but well explained. This is a wonderful summer read and a welcome detour from heavier fare. Angela and Esil, I found one! ARC from Edelweiss

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    Is it possible to come of age in a mere summer? For fourteen-year-old Mary Jane, the answer is a resounding yes. The year is 1970, the place is Baltimore. Mary Jane Dillard is a teenager whose life is filled with singing in her church choir, cooking with her mom every day, and listening to show tunes. Outspoken and worldly, she is not. When asked to be a nanny for another family for the summer, her parents agree. After all, the home is respectable, what could go wrong? The Cones however are nothi Is it possible to come of age in a mere summer? For fourteen-year-old Mary Jane, the answer is a resounding yes. The year is 1970, the place is Baltimore. Mary Jane Dillard is a teenager whose life is filled with singing in her church choir, cooking with her mom every day, and listening to show tunes. Outspoken and worldly, she is not. When asked to be a nanny for another family for the summer, her parents agree. After all, the home is respectable, what could go wrong? The Cones however are nothing like the Dillards nor do they fit into any box. Love is strewn about freely, something Mary Jane has never seen as she has never been told nor said I love you to anyone. When Dr. Cone, who is a Psychiatrist, takes on a special client and his wife for the summer, Mary Jane’s life becomes even more interesting. Together, this makeshift family bonds together, with Mary Jane becoming the central character. It is through this experience that Mary Jane stands up for herself and learns who she wants to be. Mary Jane is a gem: strong, smart, and oh so sweet. From the start, I was immediately swept up in her story. Mary Jane’s relationship with Izzy Cone stole my heart as did her relationship with the entire Cone family who treated her like a daughter. That said, not every relationship in this novel is picture-perfect, which may be a testament to the time frame during which the novel took place or simply in the way the characters are written. All in all, however, “Mary Jane” is an absorbing, fantastical read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to NetGalley, William Morrow, and Custom House, and Jessica Anya Blau for the arc. Published on NetGalley and Goodreads. Review also published to Blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    4.5 stars, rounded up. Looking for a terrific coming-of-age story about a teenager who realizes there’s more to life than her sheltered upbringing? Read Mary Jane , the new novel by Jessica Anya Blau. Was there a point in your childhood when you realized your parents weren’t always right about everything, that their views of the world might be out of step? That’s what happens to 14-year-old Mary Jane. It’s 1970s Baltimore. Mary Jane is a good girl—she loves Broadway show tunes, sings in the chur 4.5 stars, rounded up. Looking for a terrific coming-of-age story about a teenager who realizes there’s more to life than her sheltered upbringing? Read Mary Jane , the new novel by Jessica Anya Blau. Was there a point in your childhood when you realized your parents weren’t always right about everything, that their views of the world might be out of step? That’s what happens to 14-year-old Mary Jane. It’s 1970s Baltimore. Mary Jane is a good girl—she loves Broadway show tunes, sings in the church choir, and grows up in a conservative, traditional household. (There’s even a picture of President Ford hanging in the house.) Her father works; her mother takes care of the house and makes sure dinner is always on time. Her mother gets her a summer job in “a respectable home,” working for the Cone family, helping care for their young daughter Izzy. (If only her mother knew that what appeared "respectable" on the outside was anything but on the inside!) But Mary Jane quickly realizes the Cones need far more than a helper—she practically takes over running the household in no time. She also knows that the Cones’ lifestyle is one her parents would definitely disapprove of, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Mary Jane’s life is thrown for a loop when one of Dr. Cone’s patients and his wife move in, so Dr. Cone can help him beat his addiction. But it’s not just any patient—it’s Jimmy, a famous musician, and his even-more-famous wife, Sheba. Suddenly Mary Jane is the only person paying attention to what goes on with Izzy, ensuring whether there’s food in the house, getting the laundry done, etc. And at the same time, she starts to learn things about life, love, relationships, and music, things that conflict with the things she’s always believed. It’s good when your eyes are opened to what’s around you, but difficult at the same time. I thought Mary Jane was great. I definitely felt like Blau captured the mood in society of the 1970s and the conflict between more "traditional" or conservative beliefs and more modern ones. Mary Jane was a terrific character and I loved seeing how her eyes were opened, but yet how she felt rooted in what she had been taught by her parents. This was definitely a well-written and thought-provoking story! Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is one of my favorite novels this year! I thank GR friend Holly for her terrific review which brought this to my radar. What a delight it was to be engrossed in the summer of 1975 with the sweet and endearing Mary Jane. This is billed as a coming-of-age novel, which it is. But it’s also a time piece. We are transported to that interesting time when strict conservatism and bohemian lifestyles flourished. It was also a time of limited digital access. There were no smart phones or 24-hour news This is one of my favorite novels this year! I thank GR friend Holly for her terrific review which brought this to my radar. What a delight it was to be engrossed in the summer of 1975 with the sweet and endearing Mary Jane. This is billed as a coming-of-age novel, which it is. But it’s also a time piece. We are transported to that interesting time when strict conservatism and bohemian lifestyles flourished. It was also a time of limited digital access. There were no smart phones or 24-hour news channels. Author Jessica Anya Blau chose a wealthy neighborhood in Baltimore as her setting. Blau lived there with her family and got to learn a bit of the history of the area. In 1975 Jews and “colored” people couldn’t join country clubs. In fact, Mary Jane’s father informs her that Jews and “colored” people were physically different from whites. Blau also adds a lot of music from that time. In an interview, Blau said that she had siri/alexa play the top 100 from 1975 (I never even thought of that). Old music that you loved and have forgotten is background to this fun novel. Mary Jane narrates this story. Her innocence is adorable. She chose not to go to summer sleep away camp, so she procures a job as a summer nanny for a doctor down the street. Her parents agree, not understanding that Dr. Cone is a psychiatrist….and a JEW!! Yikes!! Mary Jane absolutely loves her charge, Izzy. Plus, the Cone home is a bit of a mess, as Mrs. Cone doesn’t like housework or cooking. Mary Jane comes from a strict home, where her mother controls every aspect of their lives. Every item has it’s place. Food is always on the table at meal time with Mary Jane assisting her. Now, Mary Jane is exposed to another totally different lifestyle. She sees a mother who loves her daughter (Mrs. Cone), but doesn’t define herself as a housewife. Mary Jane enjoys getting the Cone home in domesticated order. The fun starts when Dr. Cone takes on a famous patient that he needs to treat for drug addiction and sex addiction. Mary Jane knows her parents would not allow her to work in a home were a drug addict (oh no!) and a sex addict is being treated. Here in lies the fun of the novel, seeing this new lifestyle through the eyes of Mary Jane. It’s a coming-of-age story in that at the age of fourteen, Mary Jane is understanding that there are different ways of living. What makes this adorable is Mary Jane trying to process the differences in households. She was taught one way, and the way that the Cones are living are totally unacceptable; except Mary Jane sees the loving part, the functioning part. I listened to the audio narrated by Caitlin Kinnunen. Caitlin is fantastic as the voice of Mary Jane. I highly recommend the audio! I absolutely adored listening and was sad when it was over.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    ***SPOILERS HIDDEN*** I couldn’t find the magic in this story about an adolescent who one summer works a babysitting gig for a free-spirited family. The protagonist and narrator is Mary Jane Dillard, a naïve but mature and capable fourteen-year-old, and the child of two bland parents who live their lives in traditional gender roles. The Dillards have all the trappings of a rich, white family: They belong to a country club, live in an elegant house in a posh neighborhood, and send their daughter t ***SPOILERS HIDDEN*** I couldn’t find the magic in this story about an adolescent who one summer works a babysitting gig for a free-spirited family. The protagonist and narrator is Mary Jane Dillard, a naïve but mature and capable fourteen-year-old, and the child of two bland parents who live their lives in traditional gender roles. The Dillards have all the trappings of a rich, white family: They belong to a country club, live in an elegant house in a posh neighborhood, and send their daughter to a pricy private school. Their concerns never extend beyond the comfortingly banal: cooking, gardening, church-going. Mary Jane’s parents are offensive to her because her life with them is boring and rigid. The stage is set for her to put the Cones, a family totally unlike her own, on a pedestal. This book isn’t especially original; it’s just another tale about someone who discovers the joys to be found in embracing a carefree approach to life--or rather, it’s supposed to be. The story has a huge problem here, and it’s at the very core of that premise: Mary Jane discovers this joy via a really dysfunctional family. For most of this book, I felt little pings of surprise but no strong feelings. By the end, I was deeply annoyed, even angry. The Cones, the family Jessica Anya Blau wants her readers to view as the ideal, are laissez-faire to a fault. They neglect their five-year-old’s physical needs; leave their fridge packed with mostly spoiled food; house Jimmy and Sheba, ditzy celebrities who live with the Cones while Jimmy works to get sober; and smoke pot (with the drug addict who’s trying to get sober) in front of their kid. They not only have no qualms about having a fourteen-year-old grocery shop daily, cook all three meals daily, clean up their messes, and entirely care for their child for long hours each day, but they delight in it. And Blau expects her reader to delight in it too because she confused the Cone parents’ irresponsibility and chaos with a refreshing brand of rebellion. She thought that as long as she depicted them as kind overall, as long as they kissed and encouraged their five-year-old, they couldn’t be described as neglectful. She thought that it’s supposed to be part of some flaky charm that these parents hired not a teen babysitter but a replacement parent and maid. Mary Jane is about the titular Mary Jane, but it’s also a tale of two families: the Dillards and Cones. However, the bulk of the story is centered on the mess that is the Cone family, with the Dillards an afterthought, as if Blau found them too boring to even think about. Unfortunately for the story, without any vivid sense of the Dillard parents, it’s even harder to understand, much less appreciate, why the Cones hold so much appeal for Mary Jane. But ultimately, for these families to be contrasted in any meaningful way, they’d have to be nuanced, and all the characters, even narrator Mary Jane, are flat as boards. Toward the end, when the Dillard parents finally get more page time, they prove to be not that offensive. Blau’s view of family is black-and-white--a straitlaced family is automatically all bad, and a devil-may-care family is automatically all good. The Dillard parents aren’t perfect--their elitist, prejudiced, and sexist views are abhorrent, to be sure--but they behave as parents to their daughter and run a properly functioning household. They simply aren’t oppressive enough for it to make sense that a daughter they’ve taken good care of for fourteen years would turn against them so passionately. It’s in these later pages that my annoyance turned to anger. I thought that the story was going to redeem itself when (view spoiler)[Mary Jane’s mom explains to her daughter that it’s inappropriate for Mary Jane, a child, to be taking care of the Cone family. I thought that here the story would have a much-needed moment of sense and emotional clarity as Mary Jane would come to understand that conflicting feelings can coexist. I thought that, with her mother’s help, Mary Jane would acknowledge that although she finds joy in the Cone household, she also can recognize and condemn this family’s dysfunction. Instead Blau presented Mary Jane’s mom’s belief as a shortcoming, an uptight view stemming from her traditionalism and unfamiliarity with the Cones. (hide spoiler)] The only thing Mary Jane has going for it is Mary Jane herself. She’s a likable narrator who tells the story in an easygoing, conversational voice that kept my attention to the very end. For this reason, as a reading experience, Mary Jane is good--Blau’s personable writing style is exactly the kind I gravitate toward--but as a story experience, it’s exasperating. The bones of a stand-out story are here but only the bones. Mary Jane is both too undeveloped and too problematic to be called complete, and it’s way too annoying to be the joyful story Blau was intending. NOTE: I received this as an Advance Reader Copy from Goodreads in March 2021.

  9. 5 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN* (on hiatus)

    4.5 rounded up to 5 Stars This gem of a book was like buried treasure. The synopsis had some seductive elements such as the setting of 1970, being a teenager...and music-of course! I grew up in the sixties and seventies, and my love of music really blossomed during the 70s when I was a teenager. My favorite music station to stream is iHeart70s radio. Also, the cover wth the vinyl LP on the turntable reminded me of a Led Zeppelin album, since I remember them being on Atlantic records. I must say, 4.5 rounded up to 5 Stars This gem of a book was like buried treasure. The synopsis had some seductive elements such as the setting of 1970, being a teenager...and music-of course! I grew up in the sixties and seventies, and my love of music really blossomed during the 70s when I was a teenager. My favorite music station to stream is iHeart70s radio. Also, the cover wth the vinyl LP on the turntable reminded me of a Led Zeppelin album, since I remember them being on Atlantic records. I must say, this story wildly exceeded my expectations and kept me tethered to my kindle. The main character is 14 year old Mary Jane. She gets a summer job taking care of a little 5 year old neighborhood girl named Izzy. Her mother Mrs. Bonnie Cone is a stay at home Mom, but nothing like a traditional wife and mother. In fact, she is derelict in her duties. Mary Jane is like a fish out of water when she steps into the alternate universe of the Cone household to assume her role. Mrs. Cone doesn't wear bras, is careless about cleaning the house, cooking meals and even giving little Izzy a bath. There are piles of books and sundry other bric a brac all over the house in random places. Mr. Richard Cone is a psychiatrist who sees patients in his garage office. He has a very special client this summer who he'll be treating as his sole patient, and he'll be boarding at the Cone house along with his wife. The intriguing part is it's a celebrity couple. Now, when I was first introduced to them in this book the wife's description "screamed" to me Cher as to whom it was based on. This was confirmed by a movie role "Sheba" was offered towards the end of the book that made me say..."Aha!". She's married to a famous musician named Jimmy who's in a band named Running Water. He has a drug addiction for which Dr. Cone is treating him. Other than being a drug addicted musician, he bore no resemblance to Cher's ex-husband Greg Allman. When Mary Jane first goes into the kitchen and sees Sheba sitting at the table she's utterly starstruck. Mary Jane and her Mom always watched Sheba on her variety show. Mary Jane can't tell anyone that Sheba and Jimmy are staying at the Cone's house. It's a rule, but even if it wasn't, she couldn't tell her parents. Mary Jane's parents run a tight ship at their household. Her Mom's life consists of meal planning, cleaning the house, gardening and church. Her father's a lawyer and they belong to a country club. Mary Jane is a stand out singer in the children's church choir. Mary Jane's skills make her more and more crucial at the Cone house, and it gets to a point where she's practically living there during the week. She finds herself telling little lies in order to justify her increased hours over there. She uses her mother's wonderful meal plans to cook scrumptious dinners and desserts at the Cone house. I loved reading the details of how she made each delicacy, drawing from her tenure helping Mom in the kitchen. She also made homemade pancakes called "bird's nests" each morning where you cut out the hole in the center of the pancake and cook an egg. She made Izzy a part of everything she did, including shopping for the groceries and preparing the food. Mary Jane also gradually organized everything in the house like the books that were strewn all over the place, and made sure that Izzy had a nightly bath. It was so much fun for Mary Jane being around Jimmy and Sheba. In the evening the adults would smoke joints, and sometimes there would be group therapy sessions. Nothing was kept secret. This was the summer Mary Jane really grew up. She heard about sex, drugs and rock and roll. I laughed out loud many times. Mary Jane was really able to see and understand the contrasts between different lifestyles and value systems between the Cone household and her family's. Her talent for singing was also discovered by Jimmy and Sheba, and they would often harmonize and sing together. I underestimated how good this book was going to be. What a delightful journey it took me on! Thank you to the publisher William Morrow and Custom House for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    I did not hesitate to give Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau 4.5 very strong glimmering stars after I finished reading this amazing coming of age book. It was so hard for me to put this book down once I started it. It was fast paced, character driven and very well written. I found it to be funny, entertaining, sometimes frustrating, and even hopeful at other times. Having been college age during the early 70’s, I was easily able to relate to the music, dress and life style represented by this decad I did not hesitate to give Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau 4.5 very strong glimmering stars after I finished reading this amazing coming of age book. It was so hard for me to put this book down once I started it. It was fast paced, character driven and very well written. I found it to be funny, entertaining, sometimes frustrating, and even hopeful at other times. Having been college age during the early 70’s, I was easily able to relate to the music, dress and life style represented by this decade in this book. It was a fun time to have grown up in but there were also many temptations and questionable choices that went along with living through this decade. When Mary Jane decided to work as a Nanny for five year old, Izzy, her whole concept about family and love would be challenged. Mary Jane would witness things in this family that her overprotective and strict upbringing had denied her from experiencing. Impressionable fourteen year old Mary Jane would begin to experience love, friendship and acceptance, possibly for the first time in her young life. Becoming Izzy’s nanny, allowed Mary Jane to begin to see life differently, come to appreciate various types of music in new ways and begin to like the person she was turning into. There was no going back for Mary Jane. She liked how this family made her feel. She had made loyal and devoted friends that liked and respected her for the person she was. It felt good but Mary Jane knew her parents would never understand this new world she had entered or the friends she had began to cherish. She began to understand and recognize how short sided, opinionated and prejudiced her parents really were. Could Mary Jane help her mother see her in a different and new way? Would Mary Jane’s mother be able to accept Mary Jane’s new ideas about what she wanted out of life and what kind of person she wanted to be? Could she get her mother onboard and rebuild their relationship? I was extremely lucky to have won an advanced copy of Mary Jane in a goodreads’ give away in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Custom House publishers for affording me this opportunity. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This was the first book that I have read by Jessica Anya Blau but I will definitely read other books by her in the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 Music Stars This was such a fun one that put a smile on my face! I would put this one firmly in the “coming-of-age” camp even though our main character is just 14. I loved Mary Jane’s character, she sings in the church choir, loves show tunes, cooking, and gardening with her mom. It’s the early 1970s in Baltimore. She gets a summer job with a nearby family, caring for Izzy. She encounters a family very different from her own. The mom, Bonnie, rarely cooks or cleans the house. The dad is a psychi 4 Music Stars This was such a fun one that put a smile on my face! I would put this one firmly in the “coming-of-age” camp even though our main character is just 14. I loved Mary Jane’s character, she sings in the church choir, loves show tunes, cooking, and gardening with her mom. It’s the early 1970s in Baltimore. She gets a summer job with a nearby family, caring for Izzy. She encounters a family very different from her own. The mom, Bonnie, rarely cooks or cleans the house. The dad is a psychiatrist and has one exclusive client for the summer. Izzy is a sweet 5-year-old girl who loves to help Mary Jane with cooking, cleaning the house, ironing, and grocery shopping. The atmosphere at their house is one of love and affection, quite different than Mary Jane’s respectable stand-offish parents! Things get even crazier when Mary Jane meets the exclusive and top-secret summer client – a young rock star, working on his sobriety and his superstar wife. Mary Jane is a little starstruck at first, but who wouldn’t love spending the summer with such a crew? There are serenades at dinner, spontaneous song writing, and a week at the beach. Jimmy and Sheba are quite the power couple! There are some serious issues that come up and Mary Jane has a chance to see how adults can navigate through these difficulties. She comes to view this as her family and feels that she fits in better with them. Mary Jane is exposed to a whole new world that clashes with her parent’s viewpoint. She gains confidence in her voice and even more comfortable with her body, and it was fun seeing her open up. She also builds a closer relationship with her mother eventually! I really did enjoy this one. Thank you to Book Club Girls/William Morrow and Custom House for the copy of this one to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm Myrtle Beach

    The marketing department was wildly generous by saying this book was Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six. This book was a snooze... Nothing happened! And Mary Jane was supposed to be 14 years old, but her sheltered naivete read more like a 10-11 year old. I just didn't connect with the characters, the story, or the writing. The marketing department was wildly generous by saying this book was Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six. This book was a snooze... Nothing happened! And Mary Jane was supposed to be 14 years old, but her sheltered naivete read more like a 10-11 year old. I just didn't connect with the characters, the story, or the writing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    "So take this moment Mary Jane, and be selfish - Worry not about the cars that go by, 'cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom - So keep warm, my dear, keep dry" -- lyrics by Alanis Morissette & Glen Ballard Ms. Jessica Anya Blau, my new favorite author discovery of 2021 - after crazily enjoying her off-kilter earlier novels Wonder Bread Summer and The Trouble With Lexie - continues on her winning streak with the more down-to-earth coming-of-age story Mary Jane. Set during the carefree su "So take this moment Mary Jane, and be selfish - Worry not about the cars that go by, 'cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom - So keep warm, my dear, keep dry" -- lyrics by Alanis Morissette & Glen Ballard Ms. Jessica Anya Blau, my new favorite author discovery of 2021 - after crazily enjoying her off-kilter earlier novels Wonder Bread Summer and The Trouble With Lexie - continues on her winning streak with the more down-to-earth coming-of-age story Mary Jane. Set during the carefree summer months of 1975 in the actual upper-middle class Baltimore suburb of Roland Park, we follow the title character - a mature but sheltered fourteen year-old hailing from a conservative household (she is an only child, and her middle-aged ultra-conservative parents are stiff, strict and exhaustingly formal in nature) - as she acquires her first real job as a teenager. The eccentric Cone family has moved into the neighborhood and they require a day-sitter for their precocious (but not cloying) five year-old daughter Izzy. Mary Jane gets said position, then finds out there is MUCH more to it . . . Where to start? Well, the Cone family - a psychiatrist, his free-spirited wife, and aforementioned daughter Izzy - are the antithesis of Mary Jane's home situation. Liberal and laid-back, the Cones present an entirely different lifestyle than Mary Jane could probably ever conceive. Then there's the reason for the need for the day-sitter - Dr. Cone (who has an office at his home) has agreed to treat a patient exclusively for the duration of the summer, and the patient's wife is on friendly terms with Dr. Cone's wife. So the patient and his wife move into the Cone's spare bedroom . . . but Mary Jane has to keep this a secret, because the two are young celebrity couple Jimmy Bendinger and Sheba, a country-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist and a singer-TV variety show star-turned-movie actress. (Reading between the lines the duo is likely based on Gregg Allman and Cher, right down to 'Sheba' mentioning a particular movie role she is considering in the final chapters.) Throughout the summer Mary Jane has various experiences - often low-key, but sometimes dramatic or shocking - which open her adolescent eyes to a larger world that she probably never imagined due to her upbringing, and learns some difficult but essential truths about the fallibility of adults. I thought the book was charming and properly nostalgic, with a well-written cast of characters that will seem familiar to anyone who has spent time living in suburbia. Author Blau sure knows how to craft a readable story!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    A story set in Baltimore in the 70’s, the summer that Mary Jane Dillard had just turned fourteen. A pivotal summer that would change the way she viewed the world, and the people in it, and begin to question the adults in her life. Another novel compared to Daisy Jones and the Six, as well as Almost Famous, the movie. Mary Jane and her family live in a lovely suburban neighborhood, where they are members of the local Country Club whose membership is ‘exclusive,’ and they live very predictable, or A story set in Baltimore in the 70’s, the summer that Mary Jane Dillard had just turned fourteen. A pivotal summer that would change the way she viewed the world, and the people in it, and begin to question the adults in her life. Another novel compared to Daisy Jones and the Six, as well as Almost Famous, the movie. Mary Jane and her family live in a lovely suburban neighborhood, where they are members of the local Country Club whose membership is ‘exclusive,’ and they live very predictable, ordered lives. The house is always tidy, Mary Jane is a good student, a good girl, and her parents are proud of her singing in the choir at their church, sweetly innocent of how her life will change over this summer. She has been hired as a nanny for young Izzy, the daughter of Dr. Cone and his wife - who obviously doesn’t wear a bra. It isn’t long before she’s noticed the differences in their households. The Cone’s house is always in some state of chaos, the refrigerator filled with cartons of milk that spoiled long ago, the silverware drawer is a disaster, and things are stored willy-nilly as though a poltergeist comes in at night and rearranges everything for fun. First things first, Mary Jane knows she must clean and organize if she’s going to be able to help out, and with Izzy helping, she can also teach her how to clean and cook, which will be fun, but will also help Izzy since her mother doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen - unless it’s to guzzle some milk out of the carton. Dr. Cone is a psychiatrist, and soon one of his patients, a famous rock star with addiction issues, Jimmy Bendinger, and his wife, a famous star in her own right, Sheba, will be boarding at the Cone’s home, but it must be kept a secret to protect them from the media and fans who would interfere with his recovery. It is a summer that will change Mary Jane’s life, how she views her life, and the life she envisions for her future. She falls in love with the way this family embraces life so fully, and doesn’t feel a need to ‘fit in’ with other people’s ideas or lifestyles. She embraces them, and feels embraced for the first time in her life, by this family and the ease with which they share their feelings and affections. She begins to compare the same day-after-day life in her house to this home which seems to live each day fully, real feelings were shared, good or bad. ’In the Cone family, there was no such thing as containment. Feelings were splattered around the household with the intensity of a spraying fire house. I was terrified of what I might witness or hear tonight. But along with that terror, my fondness for the Cones only grew. To feel something was to feel alive. And to feel alive was starting to feel like love.’ Mary Jane’s summer will broaden her horizons, and teach her many things beyond her still somewhat tenderly-sheltered years. Some of things she learns are ones she will never forget, and most likely she will wish she could forget some of them, but she will also find her own voice. ’I was in the middle of the moment, the picture had been taken less than an hour ago, and already I felt the loss of time, the loss of this summer, the loss of this makeshift family. I supposed it was preemptive nostalgia, inoculating me for what was to come.’ A story which lightly explores some serious topics, but for the most part this is simply a fun, lightly entertaining read. Many thanks to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    It is 1975. Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane Dillard is a bit of an outsider. She comes from a strict home with a mother who prides herself on running a perfect household in an affluent Baltimore community with perfect meals planned each day. Her father is distant. The family belongs to a country club that has a restricted membership policy. Mary Jane, who loves to sing in her church, has led a relatively sheltered life. That summer, Mary Jane is hired as a nanny to 5-year-old Izzy Cone. The Cone hom It is 1975. Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane Dillard is a bit of an outsider. She comes from a strict home with a mother who prides herself on running a perfect household in an affluent Baltimore community with perfect meals planned each day. Her father is distant. The family belongs to a country club that has a restricted membership policy. Mary Jane, who loves to sing in her church, has led a relatively sheltered life. That summer, Mary Jane is hired as a nanny to 5-year-old Izzy Cone. The Cone home is unlike anything Mary Jane has ever seen before. The free-spirited Richard (a psychiatrist) and Bonnie Cone are warm and loving, very open in discussing all subject matters yet keep a household that is chaotic, messy and filled with a refrigerator filled with mostly spoiled food. Mary Jane’s upbringing makes her the perfect person to bring order and good food to the Cones. When Jimmy, a troubled rock star who is a patient of Richard’s and his wife Sheba, a famous actress, come to stay with the Cones, Mary Jane is enamored by the couple, enjoys the new exposure to popular rock music and their free-thinking spirit. A whole world opens up for Mary Jane, who has kept this new experience from her parents. In Mary Jane, author Jessica Anya Blau has created a sweet, memorable coming-of-age story. I enjoyed Mary Jane’s journey in finding her own voice although I wish that some of the social issues touched upon were delved into a little further. I’d love to see a sequel. Many thanks to Edelweiss, William Morrow / Custom House, and Jessica Anya Blau for the opportunity to read this enjoyable book in advance of its May 11, 2021 publication date. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] Mary Jane is an exuberant breath of fresh air! I thoroughly enjoyed her adventures as a nanny with the Cone family and their famous house guests. As Sheba tells Mary Jane, "fun counts." Yes it does! This novel left me smiling...and singing. (The audio production is terrific with a surprise at the end.) [4+] Mary Jane is an exuberant breath of fresh air! I thoroughly enjoyed her adventures as a nanny with the Cone family and their famous house guests. As Sheba tells Mary Jane, "fun counts." Yes it does! This novel left me smiling...and singing. (The audio production is terrific with a surprise at the end.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Erwin

    I really enjoyed this one. All of the characters were perfect and very well developed. Mary Jane and Sheba were my favorites.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I needed a really good 5 star read, I’m so glad I picked this up. Mary Jane is the most lovable teenage protagonist, trying to navigate the line between childhood and growing up, surrounded by a very interesting crew of characters in Baltimore. This definitely wasn’t a plot driven novel. It is character driven but still delivers, I couldn’t put it down. Even if you weren’t alive yet in the 70s (hi, it me) it’s easy to get nostalgic because of the good descriptions about culture, style, even the I needed a really good 5 star read, I’m so glad I picked this up. Mary Jane is the most lovable teenage protagonist, trying to navigate the line between childhood and growing up, surrounded by a very interesting crew of characters in Baltimore. This definitely wasn’t a plot driven novel. It is character driven but still delivers, I couldn’t put it down. Even if you weren’t alive yet in the 70s (hi, it me) it’s easy to get nostalgic because of the good descriptions about culture, style, even the food. This is largely a story about family and acceptance, but also finding your own happiness and it’s sooo heartwarming. Oh man. Anyway, this book is good and if I see any 1 star reviews they will deeply hurt my feelings

  19. 5 out of 5

    sahar

    i never thought i'd love a book as much as i loved daisy jones and the six yet here we are. this was such a great read with rich characterization and the funniest dialogue i've read in some time. it was full of so much sex, drugs and rock n' roll in the most wholesome way possible. i love that it didn't shy away from important discussions and topics and i'm pretty sure mary jane is the most relatable person in fiction history. (tw: addiction, racism, antisemitism) ➳ 5 stars. i never thought i'd love a book as much as i loved daisy jones and the six yet here we are. this was such a great read with rich characterization and the funniest dialogue i've read in some time. it was full of so much sex, drugs and rock n' roll in the most wholesome way possible. i love that it didn't shy away from important discussions and topics and i'm pretty sure mary jane is the most relatable person in fiction history. (tw: addiction, racism, antisemitism) ➳ 5 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    The 1970's is the perfect setting for this debut novel from Jessica Anya Blau. Mary Jane Dillard is fourteen. It is the summer of 1975 in Baltimore and she has a babysitting job for the doctor's family just down the street. What she discovers there is a totally different world from her own home. There is yelling, chaos, and the most adorable five-year-old, Izzy Cone. The sweet, tender relationship that develops between Mary Jane and Izzy was my favorite part of this book. Parenting styles differ The 1970's is the perfect setting for this debut novel from Jessica Anya Blau. Mary Jane Dillard is fourteen. It is the summer of 1975 in Baltimore and she has a babysitting job for the doctor's family just down the street. What she discovers there is a totally different world from her own home. There is yelling, chaos, and the most adorable five-year-old, Izzy Cone. The sweet, tender relationship that develops between Mary Jane and Izzy was my favorite part of this book. Parenting styles differ widely between the Cone and Dillard households. Without realizing it, Mary Jane incorporates the best things she has learned from her parents and freely shares them with the Cones. There is much more to this book and I think it is best to let you discover it for yourself. This would make a fantastic book group read as there is much to discuss re parenting styles, racism in the 70's (against Black Americans and Jews), sexual mores, and addiction. The music component is phenomenal including religious, rock, showtunes, camp songs, and more. . . You will absolutely adore the ending. Thank you to Custom House andNetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    Will be buddy reading with Jamie & Madison! Supposed to be Daisy Jones & The Six meets Almost Famous so my expectations are pretty high. *Thanks to William Morrow - Custom House & Netgalley for an advance copy! Will be buddy reading with Jamie & Madison! Supposed to be Daisy Jones & The Six meets Almost Famous so my expectations are pretty high. *Thanks to William Morrow - Custom House & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    All the STARS for this Eclectic Story set in the 1970's IT "ROCKED MY WORLD" Fourteen year old Mary Jane's life turns upside down and right side up, when she is offered a summer nanny job for five year old Izzy Cone. Ms. Cone informs her that she will be entertaining a guest and thus needs Mary Jane to attend to Izzy's various needs, while she is occupied. Mary Jane has no idea what to ask about her new responsibilities but once on the scene, she realizes that she is appreciated when she helps wit All the STARS for this Eclectic Story set in the 1970's IT "ROCKED MY WORLD" Fourteen year old Mary Jane's life turns upside down and right side up, when she is offered a summer nanny job for five year old Izzy Cone. Ms. Cone informs her that she will be entertaining a guest and thus needs Mary Jane to attend to Izzy's various needs, while she is occupied. Mary Jane has no idea what to ask about her new responsibilities but once on the scene, she realizes that she is appreciated when she helps with household tasks and helping the family move into their newly acquired home in Baltimore. Shortly after she settles in, she is told that Mr. Cone, a psychiatrist, will be treating their guest, out in the repurposed barn now office. Confidentiality is a concept she can adapt to but her wildest expectations are met when the patient is none other than Jimmy! The songwriter and singer for Running Waters! He is so hot. Of course, his superstar wife, singer and entertainer Sheba comes too and she is quite a handful and a load of fun. Mary Jane seems to fit into this new dynamic seamlessly and all those involved seem to adore her right back. Unfortunately, she keeps most of what happens at the Cones a secret because her parents are uber conservative and expect Mary Jane to always act proper and never to draw attention to herself. The Mary Jane that has always lived in the shadows is unleashed around these new people. I loved her metamorphosis! There is a songfest nearly ever day and her meals are so enjoyed that Mary Jane embraces each day with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure, she even hates to return home at the end of the day. She leads her mother to believe some very serious lies about what takes place at the Cone's. When the story leaks out, there is a war waged between her and her parents. As she admits to her misdeed, she stands firm in the person that she has always been but to afraid to reveal to them. Her courage is met with resistance and unkind words but with the strength and development, she experiences over the summer and the new views she has of the world, she manages to stand true to her convictions. Likewise, several others in the story also transform into healthier and more independent people, leading one to wish that could have been a part of that summer so long ago. I loved this story. I felt very connected to the characters and their emotions. I wanted to join them in their activities and interactions. Babysitting never had this kind of charm for me, however, her attachment was so genuine with Izzy. It reminds me of one little boy that I grew extremely fond of at age 15, that even today, I still think of him more than 40 years later out of dozens of children I watched. He was one of a kind. Ritchie was my Izzy. This book is worthy of your attention!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    I have never seen Almost Famous so I don’t know how this compares to that but there was nothing Daisy Jones about this story in any way other than the loose connection of musicians in both stories. This is a sweet naïve story about a young girl from a conservative strict family who finds herself as the nanny of a bohemian free-spirited group and along the way she discovers herself. Mary Jane I wish I met you in another book, I think you are a character with great potential. but I don’t think this I have never seen Almost Famous so I don’t know how this compares to that but there was nothing Daisy Jones about this story in any way other than the loose connection of musicians in both stories. This is a sweet naïve story about a young girl from a conservative strict family who finds herself as the nanny of a bohemian free-spirited group and along the way she discovers herself. Mary Jane I wish I met you in another book, I think you are a character with great potential. but I don’t think this story did you justice. The whole thing was just too cutesy for me. There were also an awful lot of sing-along moments. Especially during quite pivotal plot points. All the dishes are broken because someone had a meltdown? No problem lets sing a song. Are you sad and lonely, no problem lets sing a song. Drug abuse, infidelity identity crisis, we gotcha, lets sing a song…….. And the ending was just a tad too trite for my taste.

  24. 5 out of 5

    La La

    1.5 on the blog. It's obvious the author didn't live during the 1970s, or was too young to remember them and didn't do much, if any, research. Her idea of how the music industry functioned in the mid '70s was also way off base. Her portrayal of how "rock stars" lived their lives was straight from staged photo layouts and interviews in teen fan magazines; just schoolgirl fantasies. My biggest beef with this story is it has another one of those, I know what's best for your child because my lifestyle 1.5 on the blog. It's obvious the author didn't live during the 1970s, or was too young to remember them and didn't do much, if any, research. Her idea of how the music industry functioned in the mid '70s was also way off base. Her portrayal of how "rock stars" lived their lives was straight from staged photo layouts and interviews in teen fan magazines; just schoolgirl fantasies. My biggest beef with this story is it has another one of those, I know what's best for your child because my lifestyle is better and freer than yours, storylines; so as an adult I'll swear in front of them, smoke pot, let them see naked bodies, and talk about penises and sex all day; and if you don't like it I'll encourage your child to lie to you. When a child is not being abused physically or mentally, other adults have no right to interfere with a parent's rules. There was a scene where the father of the five year old, the fourteen year old MC was nannying for the summer, said he felt fourteen was old enough for inclusion in adult discussions of addiction and sexual matters, but that was not his decision to make. I always give these stories the benefit of the doubt thinking in conclusion the storyline will wrap up showing that pushing a young teen into adult situations is not a good thing; I have been disappointed in the number of times this has not been the case. In this story it was basically, look how fun this is, eff your parents they're just not hip. These books are usually written by authors who don't have children. Then the conclusion was an unbelievable hot corny mess. I was approved for an eARC, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane Dillard comes from an incredibly strait-laced family: she helps her mom prepare all their meals, sings in the church choir, and her music knowledge is limited to the show tunes of the month record club. She lands a summer job nannying the young daughter of a local psychiatrist and her parents approve, believing it must be a respectable household. Mary Jane is in for a shock when she enters the Cone home: there’s clutter everywhere, take-out for dinner nightly, Mrs. Cone Fourteen-year-old Mary Jane Dillard comes from an incredibly strait-laced family: she helps her mom prepare all their meals, sings in the church choir, and her music knowledge is limited to the show tunes of the month record club. She lands a summer job nannying the young daughter of a local psychiatrist and her parents approve, believing it must be a respectable household. Mary Jane is in for a shock when she enters the Cone home: there’s clutter everywhere, take-out for dinner nightly, Mrs. Cone doesn’t wear a bra …and Dr. Cone has only one patient for the summer, a famous rock star struggling with addiction ...who is moving in to the house with his movie star wife. This progressive 1970s household is surprising to Mary Jane in most ways — including the fact that the Cones regularly hug and say “I love you”, which doesn’t happen in Mary Jane’s home. Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane shows the Cones and their famous guests the sensibility of home cooked meals, ironed clothes, and alphabetized book shelves and in return they show Mary Jane how to let loose every once in a while with beach trips, record store visits, and a front row seat to view the world of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll. These two lifestyles collide in a charming coming of age tale! Mary Jane is an innocent/naive girl but reserves judgment and is open to discovering more of the world beyond her front door. As a young girl, I can remember daydreaming about random things like finding a famous person hiding out in my small town and this book follows that same highly unlikely plot. So while it requires some suspension of disbelief for the reader, if you ever wished for something exciting like that as a kid, you’ll probably be charmed like I was by this book! Thanks to William Morrow/Custom House and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Mary Jane is scheduled for release on May 11, 2021. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I ate this book up. The marketing tries to call it akin to Almost Famous or Daisy Jones, but from page one I felt like I was reading a Judy Blume book. Mary Jane Dillard is fourteen in mid-seventies Baltimore when she has an unforgettable summer as the nanny for an adorable five year old named Izzy. She lands in the middle of a found family when Izzy’s psychiatrist father begins live-in treatment with a rockstar named Jimmy and Jimmy’s Cher-esque wife Sheba, and the summer that follows feels lik I ate this book up. The marketing tries to call it akin to Almost Famous or Daisy Jones, but from page one I felt like I was reading a Judy Blume book. Mary Jane Dillard is fourteen in mid-seventies Baltimore when she has an unforgettable summer as the nanny for an adorable five year old named Izzy. She lands in the middle of a found family when Izzy’s psychiatrist father begins live-in treatment with a rockstar named Jimmy and Jimmy’s Cher-esque wife Sheba, and the summer that follows feels like magic to both Mary Jane and the reader. I recognized so many pieces of myself in Mary Jane, and I was floored by a scene when her father, after he discovers what his daughter has been doing all summer, asks if she thinks about how that behavior reflects on the family’s standing in the community. That was almost note-perfect a conversation I had repeatedly with my father growing up: that it was less my behavior and more how it reflected on him. That Mary Jane did nothing wrong, and in fact was the glue that held the hodgepodge family together at Izzy’s house, was even more familiar to me. This is a book with hauntingly real mother-daughter relationships, honest portrayals of marriage and the ways they can differ, and the heartbreaks are earned. I adored each of these characters, from the realistic 5 year old to the workaholic doctor to the rock star and the actress, but mostly I loved Mary Jane herself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    5 Stars for Mary Jane (audiobook) by Jessica Anya Blau read by Caitlin Kinnunen. This was a wonderful story. It really took me back to my childhood. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I’m looking forward to reading more books by her. I also really liked the narration. The narrator had the perfect voice for this story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anna Avian

    This book is an example of bad marketing. It has absolutely nothing to do with Daisy Jones & The Six so I started it with completely different expectations from what I got. But my biggest issue is that it basically has no point or plot to speak of. There was absolutely nothing interesting or intriguing about the story or the slow-paced, tedious life of a teenager and her ridiculous, racist parents.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    I really loved this book and look forward to reading more from this author. This is the first book I've read from her. I am always impressed by well-developed characters and that is one spot where this book really shines. In this coming of age story, the 14-year-old protagonist, Mary Jane, grows up in a wealthy suburb of Baltimore in the 1970s. Her eyes are opened to very different lifestyles when she takes a summer nanny job with a family completely different than her own. Up to this point, her I really loved this book and look forward to reading more from this author. This is the first book I've read from her. I am always impressed by well-developed characters and that is one spot where this book really shines. In this coming of age story, the 14-year-old protagonist, Mary Jane, grows up in a wealthy suburb of Baltimore in the 1970s. Her eyes are opened to very different lifestyles when she takes a summer nanny job with a family completely different than her own. Up to this point, her summers have been spent at sleepaway camp or at the country club pool. This summer, she takes on more responsibility than she signed up for as she cares for the child of a psychiatrist. Along with caring for the adorable and precocious Izzy, Mary Jane transforms the neglected home of a family with no regard for cleanliness, hygiene, or regular mealtimes. She does this in the midst of a family with a troubled marriage and a live-in heroin-addicted rock star patient and his famous wife. There were many times when I cringed at what both Izzy and Mary Jane were exposed to but it did make for a great story. I had to remind myself it was fiction. As fiction, it was highly entertaining. Perhaps one summer is not the ideal amount of time to learn all that Mary Jane learned, but this book sure packed in a lot. She learned about addiction and that it does not have to be a defining characteristic of a person. She learned not all marriages work and some work in very unconventional ways. She learned that sometimes what looks dysfunctional on the outside isn't when you dig deeper, and other times what you see is a symptom of a much larger problem. She learns about the racism that was commonplace in the 1970s and how her own family was complicit. There is so much more to list and several things no 14-year-old should have learned. My only complaint about the book is that the ending is wrapped up too neatly. I won't spoil it for anyone, but I do think some of the characters changed too much and too abruptly and the ending was a little too smarmy for my taste.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Holly R W

    "Mary Jane" is a perfect beach read. It is a fun book to read and does not take itself too seriously. At the center is Mary Jane, a 14 year old girl who is hired to be a summertime nanny working for a family new to the neighborhood. They all live in an affluent section of Baltimore in 1975. Mary Jane has been raised by conservative, Christian parents as an only child. They attend church weekly, where her mother is a Sunday School teacher and Mary Jane sings in the church's choir. The family bel "Mary Jane" is a perfect beach read. It is a fun book to read and does not take itself too seriously. At the center is Mary Jane, a 14 year old girl who is hired to be a summertime nanny working for a family new to the neighborhood. They all live in an affluent section of Baltimore in 1975. Mary Jane has been raised by conservative, Christian parents as an only child. They attend church weekly, where her mother is a Sunday School teacher and Mary Jane sings in the church's choir. The family belongs to a country club, which is the focus of their social life. No Blacks or Jews are permitted as members. Mary Jane herself attends a private school. She is expected to be well-behaved and obedient. She has never been exposed to anything different than this. Until... Mary Jane enters her new neighbors' household. It is as if Mary Jane has found herself in a whole other world. First of all, the house itself is beyond messy. Her new neighbors (the Cones) have no interest in housekeeping, unlike Mary Jane's mother. Mrs. Cone does not wear a bra and is indifferent to cooking for her family. Take-out meals are the norm. Five year old Lizzie (Mary Jane's charge) walks around topless and unbathed. And yet, there is so much affection for each other that Mary Jane sees, that she cannot help but be drawn in. Her own parents are chilly towards each other and Mary Jane. It turns out that Mr. Cone is Jewish and is a psychiatrist, both of which are foreign to Mary Jane. And, Dr Cone is treating a famous rock singer for drug addiction. The musician and his movie star wife are staying with the Cones for the summer. Mary Jane can not help but be star struck. What follows is a delightful romp for the reader. PBT Note: This fits the monthly tag for Beach Read.

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