Looking for JJ and Becoming Jane

Saturdays are traditionally my me-days. Since I always procrastinated the day away during the IB, I figured I might as well give myself an official day off from school-related work and enjoy myself. The habit seems ingrained in me now; with all intentions of studying yesterday, I ended up sleeping in, learning how to play pool, reading Looking for JJ and watching Becoming Jane.

Looking for JJ is about the search for Jennifer Jones, a ten-year-old girl who kills her best friend when they go out on a trip one day. Years have passed since that day, and JJ, as she is called, has served time in jail. She has now been released into the general public under a new name to try and make a new life for herself, but the media is searching for her.

The writing starts out a little stiff and awkward, and there are a few insignificant plot holes, but it flows better later on in the book as the author builds up the past and fleshes out the present life of JJ. I wouldn’t say that it’s an unsympathetic or very sympathetic take on the issue of whether criminals — specifically, murderers — should be allowed to make new lives for themselves. Certainly it’s not unsympathetic, as JJ is portrayed to be, for the most part, just another girl. On the other hand, it’s not entirely one way in its sympathy; rather, it raises questions about the issue. Should it be about retribution or should people be allowed to make new lives when they have, after all, taken away another? Does remorse and youth play any part in forgiving a person? The ending is ambiguous; the author doesn’t give answers to the questions she raises, which, I think, is probably an accurate representation of life.

Becoming Jane is similarly tragic in that circumstances often dictate the lives that people end up living, and that what they want is not always — in fact, often — what they can have. The film is a fictitious account of Jane Austen based on some real events, so I don’t know whether I should recommend this to Austen fans or not. (Certainly not to Austen-haters!) Jane’s family and acquaintances are also very heavily based on Pride and Prejudice, so it felt overwhelmingly like the novel is supposed to be based off of her life. Somehow I don’t think Pride and Prejudice was a fictional autobiography, but maybe I’m wrong. I suppose I object a little to the overemphasis of Pride because Austen did write five other books. Whatever happened to Persuasion or Northanger Abbey? (As an irrelevant note, Persuasion was actually referenced significantly in The Lake House. But I don’t particularly recommend that movie.)

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