An overprotective family forces a young woman from her home and down an unexpected path in this debut novel.
Jack Elsie Johnson is the youngest and only girl in a family of 10 siblings. Scrappy and smart, she’s also sheltered by her father and brothers, who call her Princess. Jack is just 17 years old when she falls in love and begins an affair with her brothers’ friend Jared Ross. Explicit and steamy sex scenes follow. But when her father finds out about the couple, he cuts Jared out of their lives and sends pregnant Jack to a halfway house, a terrible place where she’s brutally beaten and subsequently miscarries her child. The punishment for losing her virginity feels extreme and implausible, though Martin’s characters live in a world where women are apparently in need of constant male protection. Jack, for example, despite her 5-foot-10-inch height, finds herself picked up and deposited in places with startling regularity. The story’s pace picks up following Jack’s escape from the halfway house. She must survive the mean streets of New York City and deal with a serious case of PTSD, which manifests itself as a “dark twin” taking over her consciousness. The overprotected Princess becomes a survivor who learns to take care of herself and puts a great deal of effort into caring for others. Her evolution (and the fairy-tale–like quality of Martin’s book) continues when Jack becomes an international modeling sensation and savvy businesswoman trying to secure her future. She reunites with some members of her family and must confront her repressed feelings. Ultimately, Martin neatly ties up the loose ends. While Jack’s a likable character, the author insists on defining her in the extreme: the heroine’s either a feminine ideal or a dangerous killer. A propensity for nicknames, such as Little One, Lovely, and Princess, further reinforces the gender stereotypes that have wormed their way into Martin’s otherwise engaging narrative.
Despite a few flaws, this coming-of-age story remains a well-paced and highly readable journey.