Aspiring writer Jo March is excited to start eighth grade, but she's also unsure what the year is going to bring--how might she have changed by the time school is over? After all, she feels like a much different "J" than she was last year. But with her sisters Meg, Beth, and Amy at her side, she knows she can face anything--even if Amy is irritating sometimes.
And the year does turn out to be a good one. The four sisters have fun creating Halloween costumes, decorating hospital rooms for the holidays with their mom, Marmee, telling ghost stories, and more--even if worries about their dad, who's deployed overseas, and Beth, who's in remission, are always present. And when their neighbor's grandson Laurie moves in partway through the school year, they quickly discover a new friend to include in their adventures. Jo is even recruited for her school's newspaper club by a girl named Freddie, where she hones her writing skills and meets other writers.
Jo and Freddie bond over their shared love of writing, and Jo begins to realize that she's attracted to her new friend, which feels....confusing. Things are made even more so when Laurie tells Jo that he likes her--she doesn't want to ruin their friendship, but she knows she simply isn't attracted to him.
Jo's family has always been close and supportive--but will they treat Jo differently if she tells them she's gay? What if her world does change this year after all? And is change necessarily a bad thing?
There have been many adaptations of Little Women over the years, but while I was at first a bit dubious about the idea of having a version set in the modern day, I ended up really enjoying Jo. The characters are distinct, realistic, and relatable, and I really appreciated how Gros deftly makes them believable modern kids while staying true to Lousia May Alcott's original characters (I especially liked Jo, a talented budding writer and caring, loyal sister who's determined to be her true self). Similarly, many of the themes and story threads from Little Women are included, but their transposition into the current day feels natural and not at all jarring. I don't read graphic novels too often, but I quite enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to readers who usually read traditionally formatted books as well as graphic novel fans. I read it in a book group where we compared and discussed several different versions of Little Women (both books and movies), which was super interesting--I would highly recommend doing so to other book groups! Jo is an excellent pick for readers ages nine and up looking for a fast, fun, satisfying read.