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Mary Jane
Cover of Mary Jane
Mary Jane
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

"The best book of the summer." — InStyle

"I LOVED this novel....If you have ever sung along to a hit on the radio, in any decade, then you will devour Mary Jane at 45 rpm." —Nick Hornby

Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this "delightful" (New York Times Book Review) novel about a fourteen-year-old girl's coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-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 Showtunes 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.

"The best book of the summer." — InStyle

"I LOVED this novel....If you have ever sung along to a hit on the radio, in any decade, then you will devour Mary Jane at 45 rpm." —Nick Hornby

Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this "delightful" (New York Times Book Review) novel about a fourteen-year-old girl's coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-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 Showtunes 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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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Jessica Anya Blau was born in Boston and raised in Southern California. Her novels have been featured on The Today Show, CNN and NPR, and in Cosmo, Vanity Fair, Bust, Time Out, Oprah Summer Reads and other national publications. Jessica's short stories and essays have been published in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies. Jessica co-wrote the script for Love on the Run starring Frances Fisher and Steve Howey. She sometimes works as a ghost writer and has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College and The Fashion Institute of Technology. Jessica lives in New York.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Caitlin Kinnunen demonstrates superb range in her narration of this sweet, funny coming-of-age story set in 1970s Baltimore. At 14, Mary Jane is rooted in her conservative family's routine, so she's shocked when she nannies Izzy, the daughter of a psychiatrist who has a rock star and his wife, an actress, staying with them. Mary Jane's worldview expands as she witnesses liberal lifestyles and overhears conversations about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. From the gravelly voiced musician to the high-pitched Izzy, Kinnunen gives each character a distinct voice, making listeners feel as though they are part of the loving, chaotic home. Kinnunen takes advantage of musical sound effects with a strong delivery of singing and a periodic refrain of "cha, cha, pop" spoken with pep. A.L.C. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2021

    In 1975, shy, self-conscious 14-year-old Mary Jane Dillard takes a summer job as a day nanny caring for precocious five-year-old Izzy, the daughter of Mary Jane's wealthy neighbors Richard and Bonnie Cone. Mary Jane's own proper upbringing, with private schools, country clubs, and churchgoing, doesn't prepare her for the Cones' freestyle life. Mrs. Cone doesn't wear a bra, nor does she cook or clean, and Izzy is more or less on her own. With bubbly, wisecracking Izzy at her side, Mary Jane brings order to the Cone household. But it's temporary. Dr. Cone's famous patient, a rock star named Jimmy, arrives for the summer for clandestine drug addiction treatment, accompanied by his movie star wife, Sheba. Mary Jane is in awe of these superstars, but when she joins the family sing-along with Jimmy's impromptu guitar strumming, and when Sheba takes Mary Jane shopping for her first bikini, her formerly restrictive life opens up. Mary Jane navigates teen angst, R & B, marijuana, sex, and group therapy; by summer's end, everyone, including Mary Jane's own intolerant parents, learns about life, family, and loyalty. VERDICT Blau's intelligent, witty novel (after the critically acclaimed Drinking Closer to Home) captures the essence of the '70s with humor and immensely appealing characters. Highly recommended.--Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2021
    An adolescent girl comes of age in this nostalgic novel of 1970s Baltimore. In the summer of 1975, nothing has stopped earnest 14-year-old Mary Jane Dillard from loyally accepting her strict Presbyterian mother's beliefs about what it means to be a well-behaved young woman. Her familiar world turns upside down, however, when she begins nannying for the Cones, an unconventional family made up of Dr. Cone, a psychiatrist, Mrs. Cone, a housewife who--scandalously--doesn't cook or clean, and Izzy, their winsome daughter. Mary Jane quickly becomes an integral component of the Cone household, not only taking care of Izzy, but also cooking and cleaning for the family. When Dr. Cone welcomes two top-secret guests--a rock star recovering from drug addiction and his movie-star wife--to the household, Mary Jane finds herself getting an unexpected but thrilling crash course in music, fame, sex, and the adult world...one that she's inevitably forced to hide from her conservative parents. Blau paints an overly rosy picture of Mary Jane's coming-of-age: Though the book nominally engages with weighty topics including addiction, adultery, and racism, it fails to seriously reckon with them or with the complex and often ugly history of America in the 1970s. The novel's countercultural setting is, regrettably, mere window dressing. Though Mary Jane's desire to escape her parents' oppressive home is understandable, Blau never critically interrogates the Cones' extreme openness, particularly about sex, which is also inappropriate given the fact that Mary Jane is only 14. With the exception of some clunky dialogue, Blau's novel is readable and modestly entertaining, and readers nostalgic for the rock-and-roll scene of the '70s will likely enjoy its depiction of a wayward star, but it never dares to ask difficult questions. A frustratingly sentimental depiction of adolescence and American counterculture.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2021
    Mary Jane Dillard's 14 years have thus far been spent trailing her mother around the kitchen, singing in the church choir, and sitting quietly through meals at the all-white country club. Everything changes for Mary Jane when she takes a summer job nannying for the Cone family, a psychiatrist, his wife, and their five-year-old daughter, Izzy. The Cones are not your typical suburban doctor's family: they're blunt, messy, loud, affectionate, and are temporarily housing a heroin-addicted rock star and his Hollywood actress wife in their attic suite. The Cones and their house guests give Mary Jane a crash course in living out loud, introducing her to new experiences, music, and ideas: bralessness, group therapy, Black-owned record stores, and healthy open marriage. Mary Jane starts to see her President Ford-worshipping parents in a different light, and must reckon with how her past will inform her ever-changing vision for the future. Set in suburban Baltimore in the 1970s, Blau's latest is a charming and poignant tale of desire, image, Americana, and chosen family.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
Jessica Anya Blau
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