Jo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros was not exactly what I thought it was going to be, but at the same time, it was exactly what I thought it would be. It is a modern reimagining of the classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. We have the March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. And of course, their mother, Marmee and neighbor Laurie. The book is told from the first-person perspective of Jo. This is through her events and through her blog.
Of course, there is a nod to the classic beyond the characters. The feel of the book is almost classic in wording and style. It is sweet, simple, and somewhat basic. Yet, there is nothing wrong with that. I was looking for a good read but nothing too heavy or too light. And that is exactly what this book is. Yet, due to the setting of today, we also deal with today topics.
Jo is an eighth grader this year, Meg a freshman and the other two are in their respective classes. Yet, this is such a small school the March sisters, despite grade differences, can sit together at lunch. And despite the smallness, the school is diverse. People of all genders, religious and races are there. The first time this is “in the front” of the conversation is when the kids in the newspaper club introduce themselves and give their pronouns. The second time is when Jo learns something about her own sexuality. The action is the March sisters doing their thing as seen by Jo.
The ending was not a surprise. I figured if any of the March sisters would come out as gay, it would be Jo. However, I was hoping that obvious path would not be taken. There are really no surprises for the experienced reader. The book basically follows the classic novel while keeping with a modern telling. You know the ending, you know everything works out, there is no real “traumatic experiences.” Even Beth’s condition is handled with a positive spin.
I can see sequels occurring with each of the sisters. But if they keep each one focused on that sister and her personal experiences, each will be a standalone read. Ages 10 to 14 would be the best audience.