Review—Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

We’ve all had them, those days—or moments, weeks, months, years—when we think to ourselves, “I wonder what would have happened if I made a different choice?” Well, in Kristin Cashore’s new offering, Jane, Unlimited, the titular character Jane shows us the possibilities of different choices.

Orphaned at a young age, Jane’s Aunt Magnolia took her in and raised her, and Jane has lived a mostly normal life—high school, college, etc.—that is, until the start of Jane, Unlimited.

At the opening of the novel, we learn that Jane has, yet again, become an orphan because Aunt Magnolia disappeared on one of her deep-sea photography expeditions in Antarctica. But to Jane, the details of the story don’t quite add up.

After a chance meeting, her friend Kiran invites her to her family’s private island, Tu Reviens, and Jane accepts. She needs to get away, get some distance from everything that’s happened in her life, and she thinks it might be a great place for her to get some inspiration for making her custom umbrellas (which, by the way, what a creative outlet! I wish I had one of Jane’s custom-made umbrellas!). As a side note, Sarcasm and Lemons has a post coming up soon about the umbrellas Jane would make for YA characters—looking forward to that one!

As we follow Jane and the choices she makes at the ringing of the bell, we are immersed in what seems a combination of the board game ClueAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Choose Your Own Adventure, and with, per the author’s own admission, a healthy dose of inspiration from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The cast of characters could not be more wild and full of red herrings, nor could it be any more perfect for the purposes of illustrating the true weight of the variety of choices we face on, sometimes, a daily basis. Every time one possible choice played out and the story of a new choice started, I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Each time, though, Jane reasonably and consciously makes the choice of what she will do. Each time, she reasons through it. Each time, the story plays out in an entirely different—and sometimes very unexpected—way.

Most often, when we encounter choices, we never have the chance to see how they play out. We can only wonder, dream, regret, lament, cheer, wish—any or all of the above. But with this book, Cashore has created tantalizing outcomes for each of the five choices Jane faces. Ultimately, the result of each choice becomes an interesting exploration of who we are and who we choose to be and why. Through Jane, we have the chance to see every chance play out. Through Jane’s choices, we have the chance to see that maybe, just maybe, the choice we make the first time is the right one…and if it isn’t, there are far more choices ahead of us.

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