Retelling 'Jane Eyre:' A Modern Y.A. Story
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Young adult (y.a.) fiction is a huge market in the publishing industry. According to the Association of American Publishers, paperbound book sales in children’s and y.a. titles topped $1.5 billion in 2009. But while these books are usually written for readers between the ages of 14 and 21, they also have immense crossover appeal to older audiences, says April Lindner, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pa.
“Publishers are putting all kinds of resources into beautifully produced y.a. books, possibly because they seem to be as popular with older people as they are with young readers,” Lindner says. “I think adults like reading these titles because they tend to offer more plot than current literary fiction aimed at the adult market. Also, reading y.a. books enables adults to go back to a time when their own love of reading was imprinted, which for many people was a powerful experience.”
The award-winning poet, who teaches creative writing at Saint Joseph’s, is awaiting the release of her own y.a. book, Jane, a modern retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, which will be available this October from Poppy, Little, Brown’s imprint.
Advance reviews for the book have been stellar. “There’s nothing plain about Jane,” says Cecily von Ziegesar, author of the Gossip Girl series. “April Lindner executes the cool trick of being stubbornly loyal to the well-loved original while creating something totally new and captivating.”
In Lindner’s version of the story, Jane Moore, a student at an elite East Coast college, is forced to leave school after the sudden death of her parents. She takes a job as a nanny at Thornfield Park, the estate of rock star Nico Rathburn, who is attempting to make a career comeback. Against her better judgment, Jane falls in love with her charismatic employer, only to discover that he harbors a dark secret from his past.
Lindner read Jane Eyre for the first time when she was 16, and has reread it every few years since then, either to teach it to her students, or for pleasure. “The book has so many layers that every time I read it I discover something new. And I always get caught up in Jane’s story – her thwarted love for Mr. Rochester and her inner strength.”
Noting that many adults crave more from the authors they read in their youth – like the Brontë sisters or Jane Austen – Lindner says they may feel bereft after they have read through each writer’s canon. “I think this explains the popularity of these sequels we see being written – like Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, a continuation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, or modern retellings, like “Clueless,” the movie based on Austen’s Emma – two hundred years after the first book was published. People hunger for more from their favorite characters.”
For her part, Lindner says her debut novel was inspired by a similar sentiment. “I so loved the character of Jane Eyre that I wanted to see if she could exist in the modern world. ”