Published November 29, 2022
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About Belittled Women
Sharp and subversive, this delightfully messy YA rom-com offers a sly wink to the classic LITTLE WOMEN, as teenage Jo Porter rebels against living in the shadow of her literary namesake.
Lit’s about to hit the fan. Jo Porter has had enough LITTLE WOMEN to last a lifetime. As if being named after the sappiest family in literature wasn’t sufficiently humiliating, Jo’s mom, ahem Marmee, leveled up her Alcott obsession by turning their rambling old house into a sad-sack tourist attraction.
Now Jo, along with her siblings, Meg and Bethamy (yes, that’s two March sisters in one), spends all summer acting out sentimental moments at Little Women Live!, where she can feel her soul slowly dying.
So when a famed photojournalist arrives to document the show, Jo seizes on the glimpse of another life: artsy, worldly, and fast-paced. It doesn’t hurt that the reporter’s teenage son is also eager to get up close and personal with Jo–to the annoyance of her best friend, aka the boy next door (who is definitely not called Laurie). All Jo wants is for someone to see the person behind the prickliness and pinafores.
But when she gets a little too real about her frustration with the family biz, Jo will have to make peace with kitsch and kin before their livelihood suffers a fate worse than Beth.
It seems like there’s been more focus lately on LITTLE WOMEN. At least, BELITTLED WOMEN is the second story inspired by the classic that I’ve read this year. Which is pretty cool. I enjoy seeing how authors reinterpret familiar tales. (The other one is GREAT OR NOTHING.)
My favorite part about this book is the banter. It pretty much never stops. Jo and Amy. Jo and Hudson. And my favorite, Jo and David. So much back and forth and hilarity. I laughed aloud more than once.
One thing I’ll say, though is I wish the author had chosen to include an author’s note in the book clarifying some of the story’s assertions about Louisa May Alcott’s life and the writing of LITTLE WOMEN. I poked around the internet for maybe half an hour, and stumbled onto an article in the ATLANTIC about LITTLE WOMEN and the evolving interpretation of it as we learn more about the author’s life. This article on Mental Floss might also be helpful if you aren’t familiar with the story. I also read the sample pages of the book MEG, JO, BETH, AND AMY: THE STORY OF LITTLE WOMEN AND WHY IT STILL MATTERS by Anne Boyd Rioux.
Admittedly, that’s a pretty scant amount of research. It did help clarify some of the things said in the book. The characters in BELITTLED WOMEN mention some information about Louisa May Alcott’s life and her other writing. One character states that Alcott referred to LITTLE WOMEN as “The Pathetic Family” but doesn’t clarify that is the nickname by which Alcott referred to her own family or really explore the context. It’s kind of meant to show her disdain for the story, and it’s stated by a character who has some ulterior motives, so it makes sense that she would avoid context.
Anyway. I found the story itself wildly entertaining and packed with fun. The Porter family dynamics reminded me a lot of the dynamics in the family of the movie LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. It’s lots of fun and also has a sweet romantic subplot to boot. I think fans of Emma Mills or Emma Lord will enjoy this one.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Major characters are white. One minor character is Black.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. In one scene, a girl discovers a boy has purchased condoms in hopeful anticipation of them having sex.
Jo and her sister get into a fight during one scene of their show.
Teens drink beer at a party. One boy gets pretty drunk.
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