Around here, we adore Jane the Virgin, and I’ve been loving the storyline of Jane becoming a romance author. Some of those trials and tribulations are just too real.
This is supposed to be Jane’s first novel, which is about to be published in the timeline of the show. It’s broken the fourth wall and appeared in our hands. And… guys, I tried. I really really did. But there’s a fundamental truth that what works as a storytelling technique in one medium doesn’t always work in another.
There’s a lot of meta involved, and there’s a few layers we have to work through. Bear with me. There’s the Real World layer, the Jane World layer (what’s happened in the show), and the Book World layer. In Jane World, she wrote her first novel based on the love story between herself and her husband, Michael, but set it in 1900s Miami. What this means is that the book took the first two seasons of the show and rewrote it into a historical. That includes the love triangle between Jane, Michael, and Rafael (Josephine, Martin, and Rake).
Of course, the premise of Jane the Virgin is that she’s a pregnant due to an accidental artificial insemination. That’s not something that really works in the early days of the 1900s, so instead, Josephine gets drunk and sleeps with Rake, and then gets pregnant. Rake of course is smitten with Josephine, Josephine loves Martin, Martin is very perplexed by all of this… it’s messy. (I’m not really a fan of the unexpected pregnancy happening because of cheating, to be honest.)
Part of what makes this book not work is that it follows the plot of the show, which we know. And there’s 44 episodes of the show, and a LOT of plot (there’s so much plot) which is crammed into 238 pages. There are a lot of subplots that are excised, but there’s still so much happening: an international crime lord, a not-very-ex wife, family issues, a long lost father, a baby out of wedlock, and yes, a love triangle.
It’s a lot for 238 pages. A LOT. And nothing really has any space to breathe. What makes Rake interested in Josephine? No idea. What’s the real motivation behind the international crime lord? (Well, it’s an international crime lord, so…crime?)
So while a television show or a telenovella can manage with an overload of plot, this book can’t. The writing isn’t strong enough to make the characters robust enough to hold up this plot.
In discussing this book with a fellow Jane fan, she wrinkled her nose a bit and went, “We already know what this story is, since we watched the Jane-World version in the show. Why is there a book?” She does have a point, but she’s also not a romance reader. I mean, we know how our stories end. The importance is in the journey and the execution of that journey. I don’t think knowing the story was the weakness in the book, though… it does seem weird that Jane would literally use her life as the plot, rather than taking inspiration. She didn’t even file off the serial numbers; she just changed two of them.
But the biggest problem I had with the book is one of the things that makes the show great: the narrator. In the show, the Narrator has many interjections that get us started into each episode, that facilitates transitions betweens scenes, and, most importantly, is one of Jane’s biggest cheerleaders. The book takes the Narrator and makes his asides part of the text. It does NOT work. At all. Don’t tell me that Josephine is going to regret a decision, don’t tell me that I need to keep reading to find out what happens next, don’t say “Oh no!” It brings the narrative to a screeching halt, and annoys the reader.
It can annoy the reader so much that she stops reading the book.
Every time a book is made into a movie, there are changes that are made, and some of those changes are things people will be mad about. (It works in reverse, too, although the change in the home theater market effective killed the “book of the movie” industry. This makes me sad, because the novel of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is amazing.) Storytelling mediums support different kinds of stories, and trying to translate a story from one medium to the next without adjustment isn’t going to work.
I wanted to like this. I really really did. Instead, I’m annoyed and disappointed in the execution.
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