Newly orphaned Janie Mason moves from the Hawaii she loves to a chilly mansion in San Francisco, home of the strangers her parents named as her legal guardians: the Rochesters.
The Rochesters, a white family, prove cold and unfriendly, as does their Filipina housekeeper, despite the fact that Janie’s biracial: part Filipina, part white. Only the youngest Rochester, Nicholas, is friendly. Visiting her opulent room, he puzzles her with comments about his invisible twin sister. His father, Richard, Janie’s legal guardian and an old friend of her father, scares Janie. Richard’s wife, Marion, clearly detests her but complies with his orders, enrolling Janie in their daughter’s private school, where Janie struggles to keep up. When her surfboard and wetsuit arrive from Hawaii, Janie heads to the beach, where she connects with a hot boy from school. At home, Janie’s sleep is interrupted by strange sounds from the attic; someone rifles through her possessions when she’s out. Older brother John, expelled from school, arrives and precipitates a family crisis that somehow involves Janie. The pace accelerates, suspense builds, and stakes mount to a denouement dished up with a side order of Gothic excess. If some questions go unanswered, genre fans won’t mind.
Jane Eyre has inspired retellings from literary gems to pallid retreads; Gagnon’s version stands up to the competition, slyly toying with readers’ expectation to surprising, entertaining effect. (Suspense. 12-16)