Cover of Jo & Laurie, with the back of a woman, in an old fashioned white blouse and long blue skirt, holding a copy of Little Women behind her back

About the Book

Title: Jo & Laurie
Published: 2022
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Classic
BFF Charm: Make It Rain
Talky Talk: Louisa May Alcopy
Bonus Factors: Little Women, OTP Wish Fulfillment
Relationship Status: As Limes Are to Amy

Cover Story: Classic

This cover is soooooo pretty! I adore the color combo, and the design is a lovely callback to old school lit with a bit of a modern flourish. 

The Deal

Raise your hand if you’ve ever stopped the 1994 Little Women movie right before Jo (Winona Ryder) turns down Laurie’s (Christian Bale) proposal because it just feels SO WRONG for them not to end up together and HOW could Jo be such a damn fool and GAH WHY IS THIS WHAT HAPPENS?!

If your hand is waving madly in the air like mine is, then this book is for you. 

Margaret Stohl and Melissa de La Cruz have reimagined the story of the March family and set it between the release of the first volume of Little Women (1868) and the second (1869). Daunted by the expectations of her devoted readers and tangled in the overlap of her real world and the fictional version, Jo March is struggling–with writer’s block; with sexist societal restrictions; with grief over the loss of her sister, Beth; and with her complicated relationship with Laurie. Her family’s financial well-being depends on the sequel, but before Jo can write it, she must sort out her own story, which means facing her demons along with choices she’s been too afraid to make. 

BFF Charm: Make It Rain

BFF charm holding an umbrella

Uh, duh, we’re talking the March sisters, y’all! Of course I want to be besties with all of them! While this adaptation remains true to the spirit of each character, it adds a bit more nuance, especially to Jo and Laurie. Jo remains prickly and headstrong, but there’s a deeper undercurrent of darkness to her soul which makes her temper more sympathetic, like so:

Jo was starting to understand that there was a kind of anger that burns the humanity out of a person, a kind of anger that started in the brain and disoriented the body as it worked its way from muscle to bone.

Yes, she’s still exasperating at times, but I found this version of Jo to be even more relatable–underneath her feisty bravado, she’s scared, and her struggle to be strong moved me to the point of wanting to hug her fiercely. (She would probably call me a noodle-head or something, but I don’t care!)  

Meg’s toughness is highlighted to awesome effect, while sweet Beth lingers as a beautiful but not overly angelic memory. Then there’s Amy, who feels way more fun than she did in the original while still exuding some eye-rolling levels of brattiness. I loooove how much she drives Jo crazy, and her confidence is really something. (In reference to her fictional self: “‘Of course that character is inspired by me,” she’d say to anyone who asked. ‘Really, I created her myself.'”)

Just like with Alcott’s book, you’ll find yourself fiercely wishing you could curl up with this crew in the cozy March household and let their ceaseless chatter wash over you like a sun beam. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

When we did the Little Women read-along nine years (!) ago, I found Laurie to be a bit more of a frat boy than I remembered. (I blame Christian Bale’s hotness for distracting me from these asshole elements of his character’s personality in the 1994 adaptation.) But with this reimagining, Stohl and de la Cruz offer a window into Laurie’s perspective, and his caddish behavior is explained by his aching desire to be a part of the March family, which is the warm, stable, loving home he never had. It’s also clear that his feelings for Jo aren’t simply an infatuation, and the chemistry between these two would make Louisa May blush all the way to her roots! The authors tow the line between the propriety of the time period (this ain’t NSFW fanfic, y’all) and the internal flames of brewing passion, especially on Laurie’s end, and the result is a juicy will-they-or-won’t-they romance that remains faithful to Alcott’s portrait of this iconic relationship where it matters… and strays where it should. 

Talky Talk: Louisa May Alcopy

It’s clear that Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz did their homework, because they absolutely NAILED Alcott’s writing style. Like, seriously, they could have done that thing where they handwrote the book on thick paper with a quill, dyed it with tea leaves to make the pages look old, and then come forward with the claim that they had found a discarded manuscript from Louisa May Alcott, and I would have totally bought it, hook, line and sinker. It’s truly an incredible feat, especially because it’s not an empty imitation–their words crackle with life, and the emotions of the story feel fresh even though you know some of the beats.  

In particular, the dialogue is pitch-perfect, which is vital given the lively banter between the sisters and between Jo and Laurie in the original book. Here’s an example of just how wonderfully Stohl and de la Cruz can channel Alcott:

“It’s true, dear boy. Even before I had a single reader, I had a singularly devoted you.”

She kept smiling as she reached for his ear…

“Undeniably.” Laurie’s eyes were on hers, as they so often were, these late-spring days. “I remain your first and your greatest–“

… and twisted as hard as she could.

OWWW! SWEET GODLESS HEATHEN BEAST! What sorry man would have you!? Atrocity, thy name is woman! This must be hate mail!

With that, Laurie howled and tossed the whole load of envelopes into the air, where they flew like so many handfuls of confetti about the room.

I mean, right?!! It’s like it was torn straight from the page of a (very valuable, so please don’t tear anything) first edition of Little Women

Bonus Factor: Little Women

Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth March hugging each other in a scene from Little Women

It’s lovely to revisit Orchard House and find all of the things I cherish (Amy’s obsession with her nose! Jo burning her dress! Roderigo!) along with a few new twists. In this version of Jo March’s life, she made up elements for her book that didn’t exist in reality–there’s no rich Aunt March, for example, and they call Marmee “Mama Abba,” which definitely took some getting used to. (I’m still gonna call her Marmee.)

Bonus Factor: OTP Wish Fulfillment

A screenshot from Little Women with Jo (Winona Ryder) and Laurie (Christian Bale) about to kiss

Let’s just say that Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz give the people WHAT THEY WANT. FINALLY. THANK YOU.

Relationship Status: As Limes Are to Amy

Just like the youngest March sister and a precious bag of pickled limes, I heard about this book and wanted it so badly. I’m not sure if the limes were really worth it for Amy, but I can tell you, this adaptation did not disappoint–it was everything I had hoped it would be, from a wonderfully genuine reunion with the Little Women gang to a swoony, satisfying romance that I’ve always pined for. Jorie* 4-ever!

*Yep, that’s their ship name. I just decided. 

Literary Matchmaking

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride & Prejudice

Fall in love with another romantic retelling of a literary classic with Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible.

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1)

Looking for a historical romance that gets a lot more hot and heavy? Check out Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

For a completely different but equally absorbing take on sisterhood, dive into Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Putnam, but got neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.