The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

The History of Jane Doe

Michael Belanger

Mixing humor with heartache, The History of Jane Doe is an unmissable coming-of-age story about history buff Ray and the new, mysterious girl in school.

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A poignant, deeply funny coming-of-age story about first love, first loss, and the power of history to give life meaning.

* "[An] impressive debut...John Green fans will gobble this one up." -- Kirkus, starred review

History buff Ray knows everything about the peculiar legends and lore of his rural Connecticut hometown. Burgerville's past is riddled with green cow sightings and human groundhogs, but the most interesting thing about the present is the new girl--we'll call her Jane Doe.

Inscrutable, cool, and above all mysterious, Jane seems as determined to hide her past as Ray is to uncover it. As fascination turns to friendship and then to something more, Ray is certain he knows Jane's darkest, most painful secrets and Jane herself--from past to present. But when the unthinkable happens, Ray is forced to acknowledge that perhaps history can only tell us so much.

Mixing humor with heartache, this is an unmissable coming-of-age story from an exciting new voice in YA.


Advance Galley Reviews

There was a whole lot to like about this book. I decided to read this book largely because I was intrigued by the cover. I mean why would a green cow be on the cover of this book? I had to know. Once I started reading the story hooked me right away and I didn't want to set the book aside. There is a so much more to this book than the green cow on the cover. This was an emotional story filled with wonderful characters I wanted to pull into a big hug before I turned the final page. I am so glad that I took a chance and decided to read this wonderful story. This book is told in alternating chapters of before and after which I think worked really well. From the start, you know things around going to work out the way you would want. But you also get to see everything as it starts and the comparison was very powerful. The book does handle a lot of difficult topics and I think it does a really good job keeping everything realistic. I liked Ray and his friend Simon from the first page. These characters were just fantastic and you couldn't help but cheer them on. Jane fit in with the pair almost perfectly. There was a bit of mystery around Jane and it was apparent early on that she was hiding a few things but her friendship with Ray and Simon felt very authentic. It was so easy to envision this group of teens trying to navigate life in Burgerville. I think that Simon and his love of milk caused more than a few laughing fits from this reader so expect a dose of humor in the story as well. I would highly recommend this book to others. This book deals with so many difficult issues in a seemingly expert manner. I fell in love with the characters and wanted to see things work out in their life. I will definitely be reading more from Michael Belanger in the future. I received a digital review copy of this book from Dial Books via First to Read.

The History of Jane Doe is a thoughtful read as it explores the history of one Jane Doe through the perspective of her boyfriend Ray who seeks to uncover why she took her own life and what signs he missed. It is a story that is almost reminiscent of 13 Reasons Why because it is telling a story, it is giving readers history and narrative of this one girl who took her own life and exploring the factors that may have contributed to it. It has a less ominous tone to it, offering readers a slightly lighter and sarcastic tone. Once again, this story, Jane’s story, is being told through the eyes and perspective of someone who loves her, who cannot reconcile the fact that she has gone, and it is showing how much he is hurting by her death. It is a poignant way to tell the story because much of the time, people forget that they are going to be leaving and hurting those they love, creating scars and pain they often feel themselves. People forget that as they focus on trying to see the way while they search for the clues and the cues that could have allowed them to help in any way the could have. Sometimes people do not want to be helped, and it is not their fault, it is all in their head, it is their illness that causes them to hide within themselves versus talking. Jane is the perfect example of that. She has all the little signs people can look for, but her façade, her outward performance, and way she puts people off keeps her from getting the help she needs. It’s a sad and tough subject to address, but it’s a topic that has to be addressed, not shunned, and the way the Belanger has told the story, it gives the story an edge, a beautiful and tragic edge that explores not just the subject of suicide but also explores the pain left behind in those loved ones. The readers can connect to the characters; they can connect to Ray and see the pain as the story goes back and forth from the past, the story he is telling, to his life without her, the therapy session, the carelessness and almost rude way he lives nowadays. However, there’s also a connection. He is not moving on, but he is learning that shunning everyone is not the best way to grieve, it is a repeat cycle that must break. Moreover, eventually, he does, bit by bit, he is evaluating himself, and the story, how he remembers Jane in her snarky glory, showing the sadness in her eyes, it is impressive. Belanger presented a heartbreaking way to tell such a sad and bittersweet story. He uses hindsight and this internal narrative to bring to life the smallest of details. The narratives that propel the plot forward have so much vitality in their language, in their actions and inaction, making both the characters and the story incredibly relatable. What’s more is the is no room for the reader to get lost. It has a beautiful flow to it as it prepares the story for the reader and builds up the narratives of the story. It goes back and forth, but it is clear how it does so and doesn’t take the reader out of the story because, again, this is a story within a story, which is part of the beauty and part of the reason it is relatable. The language is beautiful, and the structure of the story grabs the reader and makes them eager to know more about Jane, how Ray saw her, and their happiest memories as a couple.

Thank you to First To Read for a free e-copy to read/review. “For someone who'd lived his whole life moving backward, slow felt like a hundred miles per hour.” The History of Jane Doe follows Ray who is coming to terms with one of his best friends leaving suddenly. We have no idea how she left or why. This really affects Ray and his other best friend Simon whose lives she completely changed for the better. Before Jane: Ray and Simon were nerds and the social outcasts of there school. In fact, no one really talked to them unless it was to pick on them, that all changed on the day that Jane showed up. She started talking to Ray and they quickly became friends. They go on adventures together as a group, and she gets them to stop following all the rules so closely. Ray is also a big history buff and I loved his little tidbits about the small town they lived in and how it really made it seem like a real place. We also see multiple different sides of Jane. She has one she puts out for most of the world, and then the other part where she is really struggling with depression and guilt for something that happened in her past. “Fine as in fine? Or fine as in I-don't-feel-like-talking-about-my-problems-fine?" "Fine as in we're-all-spinning-a-thousand-miles-an-hour-on-a-piece-of-rock-in-the-middle-of-space-and-we're-on-our-own fine.” Overall I absolutely adored this book. Belanger did such a good job of showing real high school life, mental health, and family life. He handled it all with humor though while also having very serious moments that need to be talked about more and shown in a way that is easy to understand. The struggle that Ray faces because of what happens to Jane is one that so many people go through anymore sadly. I am so glad I took a chance on this book as it is one of my favorite humor real life reads. I highly recommend this book if you want to read something dealing with mental health, small town, and just real life in general in a fun and realistic way. “I'm starting to realize that each what contains a multitude of whys. That history is only a word for academics; it surrounds us, all of the pieces floating in space, able to be built and rebuilt like a game of Jenga.”

When I first started the History of Jane Doe, I was actually excited to read this book because I wanted to learn about the green cows. I enjoyed Ray’s dorkiness about history. Where I lost interest in this story was with Jane Doe herself. She seemed like another maniac pixie girl trope and I could not get into the story. I ended up considering it a DNF at 30%.

I definitely enjoyed this book. I really didn't expect to as I haven't read anything from this author before, this is definitely a well done book and definitely worth reading.

I absolutely loved this coming of age novel. It’s so good. We have first love, loss and it’s funny too. So point of this review it was good and I very in much enjoyed this.

I absolutely adored this book. The History of Jane Doe is a novel that everyone should read. The themes, events, and character interactions are organic and relevant. Issues that occur everyday are addressed and portrayed realistically instead of through rose-colored glasses. I read this book and thought, “how many others have a similar history to Jane Doe’s?” The main character, Ray, is so...real. Told through Ray’s alternating narrative of the past and the present, the reader is able to feel the juxtaposition of Ray’s emotions and thoughts as the events unfold. Somehow, The History of Jane Doe manages to be funny, sweet, and sad all at the same time while discussing the very serious topic of mental health.

This book has content warnings for suicide, mental illness, and depression. This one is tough for me to review because while overall I really liked the writing style and the characters, it fell a little flat for me as a whole. I think that the counting down/counting up alternating timelines was interesting, but it would have worked better if what was going to happen with Jane wasn't so obvious based on the "after" timeline. I knew what was going to happen to her by the end of the first chapter. This made the "reveal" a bit anticlimactic for me, as most of the surprise left was just gone. I really liked the tone of the book -- it was funny at times and yet didn't hesitate to get serious when it needed to be, and I think this was handled very well. I think it highlighted how it's not always easy to tell if someone is suicidal or not -- a lot of people leave hints or ask for help, and others don't. Sometimes you just don't know, even if you sense that something is wrong. And it sucks. One thing that I really enjoyed was the recurrent therapy storyline in the book -- in the "after" chapters, Ray often found himself in therapy, and he wasn't always happy to be around his therapist. I loved that he stuck through it, though. It's easy to quit therapy when it just feels uncomfortable and wrong, but he gave it more than just one chance despite his attitude towards it and it worked out for the better for him. It felt very real to me, and I really enjoyed seeing that. Overall this was a solid read for me in general, although the climax didn't hit me as hard as I wish it did. It's a good read, though probably not one of the most memorable. Final rating: 4 of 5 stars

I usually read to escape, but this is a BEAUTIFUL, WITTY book deals with real issues that are so very important. I enjoyed the alternating time perspectives, and the author really did a good job at making me invested in the characters. I love that Ray and Simon are unapologetically themselves, and I love their obsessions--Simon with milk and Ray with history. As a school counselor, I believe these books are so very important. Representation matters, and we need to normalize mental health conditions to fight the stigma and raise awareness with the goal of preventing fatal outcomes. I will definitely add this book to my collection. I received an ARC from First To Read through Penguin Random House LLC in exchange for an honest review.

History of Jane Doe is Michael Belanger's debut novel. Although it deals with some pretty hefty topics like depression and suicide this YA novel manages to still have a light-hearted witty side. At times I laughed. At other times I cried. I was especially endeared to the main character Ray whose quirky personality shines through the pages. Interested in seeing what else Mr. Belanger has in store for us in the future.

I am beyond excited to share this YA with my high school students! It's the perfect blend of humor and sadness while mixing in a little something for history buffs, too, but not in a way that would distract - or detract - from the story. In addition to being a wonderful read, it was quite the unique story with just the right sarcastic prose. I highly recommend this read to anyone who loves a good story!

I received an advanced copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. The "# of days before" and " # of days after" titles to the chapters caught my attention immediately. It was interesting jumping to different parts of Jane and Ray's story and getting the whole picture gradually. I loved Ray's quirky little breaks to talk about various history points. This book is both hilarious and deeply emotional. I definitely recommend it.

Told in dual timelines, this contemporary YA tackles deep issues, particularly mental illness and depression, with humor and eccentricity that make this a quirky, engaging read without downplaying the serious subjects. The "before" and "after" style of referencing time builds suspense as readers creep toward the pivotal moment. Some might think that seeing the aftermath in tandem with the build-up lessens the shock of the ultimate revelation, but I think this story is focused more on the characters' emotions and how we live in the wake of life-changing events than on delivering an unguessable twist. The main eclectic trio of friends is fun to read; they have distinct traits that help this group stand out from other "outcast" groups in YA - Ray is obsessed with history (his tales about Burgerville's local history are high points of the book), Simon's love of milk is bizarrely entertaining, and Jane is...well, there's no describing Jane. An excellent book overall, definitely worth a read.

The History of Jane Doe was an emotional read. I enjoyed both the comic and tragic sections in Ray and Jane's story. With my background in psychology, I often gravitate toward books that involve mental illness. Every author has a different perspective. This one was a worthy read. The landscape of Burgerville was a great backdrop for a story like this one. I found myself enjoying learning about the town as well as the characters. This may not have been the easiest book to read, but I feel like could be an important one. This one will stick in my mind for a while.

This book was very strange and odd, however, it was a very interesting read. At times it made you laugh hysterically and the author had a very quirky tone to the story. Towards the end, I felt like it started to fall short. A very interesting and different read. Thank you First to Read for the ARC.

“I don’t have cancer and both my parents are still alive. I just thought I’d get that out of the way so you’re not disappointed. While we’re at it, I might as well tell you that I’m not a vampire, I don’t have magical powers, and the closest I’ve come to fighting a war against an evil dystopian government was in a video game.” The introduction of The History of Jane Doe set expectations. We knew not to expect an epic battle or literal blood-sucking. Instead, we have Ray, who lives in rural Williamsburg, Connecticut. Ray, who is the school dork, and has a best friend named Simon—who’s also a school dork. Oh, and Ray loves history. Including the history of their small town. But that doesn’t explain Jane and after all the book is named for her. Not that it’s her real name (imagine if you did have the last name Doe and named your child Jane?). Ray claims his story is real, but Jane’s name is not. We know from the start that Jane is no longer around. It’s an unusual dual story. One path is counting down the days, and the concurrently told other path is counting away. We know it’s Jane’s departure, but we don’t know the how or why until the end and the paths converge. It sounds more complex than it is, however, I learned quickly to check the chapter names. I usually skip them, but that meant losing the time sequence. I’m actually struggling to write this review. The History of Jane Doe is read and move on material. I don’t think that’s good or bad. I enjoyed reading it, but there’s nothing to keep me thinking of it, or re-reading parts like I recently did with The Book of Essie. Mental illness is the main storyline (technically two) that will have people talking about this book. Ray is struggling with Jane’s departure and is seeing the only counselor in their small town. He’s trying to make sense of it and slips into depression. Well, actually it hits him like a truck. He blames himself; he blames everyone else, he feels helpless. Jane was his first girlfriend, and with her, he was finally accepted at school. Things were looking up, just to crash. It was well-written, and I like how it wasn’t hidden. Ray knew he was being a jerk, but he couldn’t help it. Through Ray’s eyes we also saw his mother struggling to support him, and his friends too. This makes the book sound sadder than it is. Especially in the lead-up thread, there are a lot of laughs and gorgeousness of growing up in small-town life. The science teacher’s comic book obsession is adorable and real. My grade four math teacher did the same with Australian rules football. The green cow conspiracy is more adorable than mysterious, but typical of the spoken histories of small towns. I’m a sop, and I only cried once with The History of Jane Doe, and it didn’t have me pondering or reflecting afterward, but it was a nice read.

I enjoyed this book much more at the end than I thought I would in the middle. I had to put it down at times when the pace slowed and remind myself to think like a high school boy, not a 26 year old and to return with a different mindset. I couldn't put it down the last hundred pages or so. Once I tried to connect with Ray instead of observe him, it was really good. 4ish/5*

*Thank you First To Read for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review* ***Before reading this review, just know that this book contains subjects like depression and suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk please call 1-800-273-8255. When I was first approved to receive this book, I first thought it was going to be a crime/thriller novel just based on the cover and title. When I picked up The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger, I realized I was very wrong. This is a coming-of-age novel about friendship, love, happiness, depression, and loss. Ray lives in the small town of Burgerville. His specialty is all things history and lore. He has one best friend named Simon. Their lives are quite ordinary until Jane Doe moves in and attends school with them. The three of them just click. Days are spent looking up the local history and conspiracy theories. However, Ray and Jane begin to fall for each other. Ray loves Jane but realizes that she has a history that he doesn’t know anything about. He thinks discovering this history will help understand her better but comes to find that a history can’t fully explain a person, and sometimes only create more questions. This book is a painful read. However, it magically blends heartache and humor. Ray, Simon, and Jane have a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor that really draws the readers in. Their friendship becomes something that many wish to have themselves. They are relatable. Watching Jane descend into depression from Ray’s point of view is heartbreaking but informative. The readers will see how it not only affects Jane but everyone around her. This will truly open the eyes of readers and maybe help them understand that this is an issue that can’t be fully understood. The book starts off with a really slow pace. However, once the pace picks up, it is difficult to put down. I found that I was truly attached to the characters. When they cried, I cried. I appreciate that the author shows life before and after. I love how the characters are smart, but still learning. This is a quirky read show real life and real emotions. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend this book! I think this book could help those who have friends dealing with depression. Check it out, the book will be released June 5th!

Any book that candidly discusses mental health will be close to my heart, the only way to remove stigma is to speak and share and connect. The History of Jane Doe was a pretty standard YA book for me, a solid B- if you will. As soon as the before/after with the number of days appeared I knew what was going to happen, some heavy Looking for Alaska vibes there. Pretty predictable, nothing particularly special to me but also overall not bad and it held my attention. I will say that it did make me cry so watch out for some real emotion in this one.

Hilarious and poignant! A must-read!

This was a fine read, and Belanger's writing was good, but...BUT. Two things kind of killed this story for me: 1. The quirkiness started out funny and charming but quickly veered into irritating absurdity (seriously, why does EVERY character have to have bizarre behavioral habits or obsessive interest in off-the-wall things, not to mention an entire town of farcical history and traditions), especially when juxtaposed against Ray's very real suffering during the "after" chapters. 2. Throughout the book, we keep being told that Jane's depression "just is," that it's one of those things that is beyond just a reaction to some incident - EXCEPT THEN we keep getting told that she's sad and feels guilty because of what happened to her dad and to Ellie! It's inconsistent and honestly does a disservice to the ultimate message here by muddying the waters. This book could've had a much bigger impact and been so much better with a bit more revision, attention to details and consistency across the board.

Summary: Seen through the eyes of a youth that has already loved and lost, this story is cut into parts so that he can write out the history: Before Jane, and After Jane. Struggling with the hurt feelings, guilt, unanswered questions and trying to find his place again; Ray is drowning and no amount of therapy, parenting, or friendship can reach him. He always understood history, and wanted to write Jane’s; so that she wasn’t forgotten. But how much did she know about the bright, quirky girl with the sad eyes and secrets? And how does he figure out who he is after Jane? My thoughts: First, I adored the premise here. Ray is a great character, well rounded and interesting. He loves his odd little town with it’s “haunted house” and “green cows”. He loves the history of it- and history in general. When the pretty new girl, Jane Doe, begins talking to him, he can’t wait to be the one to show her all the oddities her conspiracy-theorist heart yearns for. Along with his geeky best friend, Simon, they make a list of adventures and make a year to remember. As feelings grow between Jane and Ray, though, he can’t help seeing little things. She won’t talk about her past, her friends there. Sometimes she is sad, distant, and won’t come around for days. He loves Jane, and wants to help her, but what does a teen know about dealing with depression? I actually really appreciated how the author showed Jane; and how Ray was “after”. It seemed believable, honest. He was in pain and confused, angry at having to seek help from a psychiatrist when he wasn’t even sure what needed fixed. The slightly ridiculous interactions between Jane, Ray and Simon helped to lighten the mood; lending a bit of humor and whimsy to what would otherwise be a very heavy piece. In this way it reminded me of John Green’s works, and I think his fans will really like Belanger. My only complaint is that it followed no real time line. Each chapter was “…Days before/ after Jane” and you had to stop and think. Has this happened yet, do they know about this here? If the memories went in order it would be easier, but one’s memories don’t come like that. We are at the whim of what is important to Ray at the moment. It makes for a choppier reading experience, but a more organic one. For me, this is a five star book. On the adult content scale, I am a bit torn. There’s very light sexual content, and some language and drinking- all very minor. But there are triggers here: teen depression and self harm. My niece will still be offered this one, but I would definitely either save it for older teens or have an open discussion at the end to talk out their feelings on Jane and if anything could be done differently. I give it a five. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. My thanks!

For my Perks of a Wallflower fans, this may be the book for you. I enjoyed this one, but it had its own set of feelings that went along with this book. I think we all have to take a look at ourselves and question sometimes. Thanks for the opportunity.

I loved this book and am already recommending it to others. I loved the humor and reality of the relationship dynamics between Ray, Simon, and Jane. This was a tragic story and Ray knew no other way to delve into his feelings, but through history which he does know. You can feel the raw pain in his feelings and his attempts at therapy are quite laughable until he finds that he is ready to come to terms with the past. Lots of people wait a lifetime for what he had with Jane. Thanks for the First to Read, ARC. This is already one of my favorite authors.

Based on the cover, I was somehow expecting this to be a comedy and, though it has its comedic moments, that is certainly not the focus. The relationship between Ray and Jane, as well as his friendship with bestie Simon, is what is explored here, with mental health as a central theme. I quite enjoyed the book and felt that even though Ray didn't always manage his emotions well, that this was a credible depiction of a teenager. I wanted more from Jane, but as the book is told from Ray's perspective, I found her slight impenetrability to be realistic. Overall, this is a very thoughtful, readable debut with some important issues at it's heart.

I enjoyed this book. The back and forth between before and after never got confusing. I wish we could have gotten a little more detail on Jane's mental health since that is a very relevant issue. All in all a very good book and one I will be recommending.

I was really intrigued by the description of this book and happy when I won the chance to read and review it. The History of Jane Doe is an ode to first loves, and a journey through mental illness. It's fun, it's sad, it's heartbreaking while also being heartwarming. Ray is a high-schooler history-buff in love with Jane. She enters his life and him and his best friend Simon are forever changed. But she hides some deep dark secrets that torment her and Ray has a hard time seeing into her head, as is usually the case when loving someone who is depressed, and he struggles to find his way through her dark past so that they can have a future. This is a history of her life, written by Ray, flipping between the past and present of one devastating day when everything changes. Michael Belanger writes that he's experienced some painful episodes in his life, and it's evident in how eloquently he decribes feelings of sadness and darkness. I can imagine this book will make quite a few people very sad, as most everyone knows someone who suffers from depression, or anxiety, or other forms of mental illness. But I also think it will probably help just as many. I applaud him for his candor and insights into a rarely talked-about issue. If you love 13 Reasons Why, or anything by John Green, you will love this story. The witty banter between Ray and Jane, Simon and Mary is refreshing and fun, and it's an interesting look into mental illness, how things in life can trigger it, and change a person, and and exploration of how it affects all those around you, and how even though you may think you are ending your suffering, you are ultimately just passing it on to those who loved you. What I took away most from this is that even if you feel like you are drowning in darkness and can't see past the shadows, you never know what a light you'll be to someone else.

Ray has lived in Burgerville his entire life. He and his best friend, Simon, are accustomed to being the outcasts of high school—Ray for his obsession with history and Simon for his entirely-dairy diet (among other things). Until one day when a new girl appears in Ray's biology class. Jane is from New York and totally unlike anyone Ray has met before. Surprisingly, the two become fast friends. But the more Ray gets to know about Jane, the more she pulls away. When Jane dies, Ray must come to terms with the history that's left behind. I absolutely loved this book. I found the characters to be real and likable, even in their moments of angst. The small snippets of history and the legends of Burgerville were intricately strewn throughout and added to the setting. Often when I read books dealing with issues like depression and suicide, it feels contrived. This was not the case here. I felt that it was portrayed honestly through Jane's story, as well as the reactions of those around her. The book is written in a non-linear fashion, each chapter representing so many days before or after Jane's suicide, which helped significantly with the pacing of the story. Knowing the ending from the beginning didn't detract from the journey there, which I consider to be a mark of a well-told story.

When coping with a loss, people mourn in various ways. Ray enjoys history, and after some trial and error, he discovered his best way to cope was to write a history of a girl who changed his life. I enjoyed the humor and characters in this book (for some reason I kept imaginging Jane as Rocki from Fuller House, and Simon as Ned from Spider-Man: Homecoming) and found myself cheering them on as they navigated the ups and downs of teenage life. The back and forth between “the before” and “the after” really helped you get inside Ray’s experience of trying to figure out where he “went wrong” or what he felt he could’ve done differently. It made me reminisce of times talking to a friend with depression and feeling helpless at trying to make it all better. I like how the story in itself is told anonymously in a way, showing that this could be the story of any Jane or John Doe in your life (or you yourself) and how important it is to get help if you need it. Great first book from this author and I look forward to seeing more!

It's great to read a book that deals with such hard topics as mental health and suicide from the perspective of those that love the one feeling depressed. It hits just as hard (if nor harder) and it shows that mental health issues don't just affect the individual. Ray is the one left behind and this history lover deals with his pain by reconstructing the facts as he knows them. We get glimpses into his past with Jane and of the present as he deals with his sorrow. Thru it all is a general feeling of realness that helps the reader really connect with all the characters and really engages emotions. I laughed with them as they had their teenaged adventures, worried when they did, and cried when things got hard. Belanger created a book that engages the reader's emotions and shows that as corny and cliché as it may sound, life goes on. Also "Simon's Law" should become a thing that people practice and believe in and it would make the world a better place.

The History of Jane Doe was such a wonderful surprise! I loved the characters. They were so awkward, so endearing, so funny, so REAL. I loved Burgerville. It was quirky and eccentric- the definition of small-town America - but I wanted nothing more to visit it, to look for the mutant green cows with Jane, Ray, and Simon. I loved the writing. Michael made every word count. Never once did I feel bored or distracted; instead, I soaked it all in - embracing every feeling, good OR bad, that Michael brought my way. Why You Should Read The History of Jane Doe: (1) Ray - Ray's the main character, and I loved him to pieces. Over the course of The History of Jane Doe, the reader witnesses two Rays - the one with Jane and the one without Jane. Ray with Jane was a whole new Ray. He was daring and reckless. He lived his life with his heart on his sleeve, and while it got him into trouble at times, he didn't care. He wanted Jane. He wanted her respect, her love, her appreciation. He wanted her to know just how special she was. What I loved the most about Ray, however, was that he fully embraced his quirks. He loved history - talking about it, reading about it, etc. - and he never shied away from that love. His history related talks with Jane were some of my favorites, because I felt that it showed just how strong the bond was between them. The Ray without Jane broke my heart. He was angry and sad. He was a shell of himself, and he didn't know how to move on, how to live his life after he had experienced his own "mutant green cow," something so different, so life-changing that no one else could understand. While I didn't always approve of his anger or his outbursts, I could understand them. I would probably be the same in his shoes. Plus, seeing those low points made seeing the high points, especially towards the end, even more worthwhile. (2) The History - Like Ray, I'm a huge history nerd. I love learning about new place and new people, and that love transited over quite well when it came to learning about Ray's small town. Michael Belanger has created such a rich history within the pages of The History of Jane Doe. I loved how fresh and unique it was, how Michael as well as his characters made me want to be a green cow believer. I also enjoyed the reflections on history. They made me think, and they always tied in beautifully with the overall story. (3) Jane - It was easy to see why everyone was so fascinated with Jane. On the surface, she gave off a tough, don't mess with me vibe; however, underneath there was this sweetness to her, this personable side. I enjoyed seeing her find a family with Ray and Simon. I loved that she brought so much good to their lives, that she made them come out of their shells and do more, be more. I also appreciated that Michael never shied away from Jane's problems. Over the course of the book, Jane deals with depression, and it's never a cut-and-dry type issue. It's something she deals with everyday, and it has varying effects on the book. I won't say too much about it, but I will say I appreciated that Michael presented it in such a three-dimensional way. (4) The activities - The History of Jane Doe doesn't contain much action; however, I still liked reading about all the adventures the characters went on and seeing them just live their lives. Michael made the mundane interesting, because of how rich and developed the characters were. I wanted to know everything about them, to see all the parts of their lives, and that's exactly what I received. Overall, The History of Jane Doe is a noteworthy debut. Books like this are the reason why I always make a point to read as many debut books as I can during the year, because there's so much potential, so much goodness to be found within them. I've found a new favorite author here, and while Michael did manage to break my heart, he also built it up again by the end. Side note: If you love Down and Across (another amazing book!!), you need this one in your life ASAP!!

The History of Jane Doe is a treat for The Fault in Our Stars fans. Soulful and moving, there's plenty of humor to lighten the heavy topics of depression and suicide. I appreciate the delicate balance of romance the author used to define the relationships in The History of Jane Doe. It was well done without being too mature. The book made an impression on me because I know Rays, Simons, and even Janes. Definitely one to add to your YA TBR list, but read it on a day when you're home in pajama pants. This isn't a lighthearted beach read, despite the one-liners and joking that make it so special.

Everyone has a history and a story to tell, but not everyone has the time to tell it themselves. The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger is the story of Jane Doe as told by her (boy)friend Ray.  Ray lives in Burgerville, Connecticut, where there are local legends that captivate his history buff brain. Aside from the alleged green cows, not much exciting ever happens in this quiet town until Jane Doe arrives from New York. Ray's world is changed as he quickly becomes friends with Jane, who's unarguably cool and quirky. Jane's keeping parts of herself hidden, but the historian researcher in Ray wants to know the things she's obscuring. As their friendship develops into something more, Ray thinks he knows all the things that makes her Jane but when the unthinkable happens, he, in retrospect, questions how much we can know someone from their history. Captivating and well-written, this story demonstrates the various ways that people cope with grief and sudden loss. Tempering the seriousness of the topics addressed in the narrative is the way that humor was used throughout the dialogue between the characters, both teenagers and adults, was entertaining and captured well the coping mechanisms employed in managing mental health. Though the presence of x number of days before or after indicated the "revealing" event was a predictable device, it did help to develop a more comprehensive picture of Jane's story as it was slowly pieced together from elements of her past and the retrospective contemplations of Ray's present; however, a more linear timeline with greater character development could have made this narrative even stronger and more impactful.  Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I always appreciate it when an author takes on real-life issues, and I feel that Belanger hit it out of the park with The History of Jane Doe. Simon and Ray lead a rather mundane life, just the two of them as social outcasts, until Jane transfers to their school. For some reason, she chooses them to be friends with. Told in chapters reflecting the past and then the present, readers watch their friendship and then relationship unfold. We are given slight glimpses at first as to something being different about Jane, and while the author doesn't come right out and say it, it's clear she suffers from depression, if not bi-polar or some other mental illness I would be hesitant to name. But she does go through her ups and downs, which we learn, she probably inherited from her grandmother. The History of Jane Doe is fun, well-written, and touching. I loved how well Belanger was able to weave Jane's illness into her new life with Simon and Ray, making it my new favorite YA read.

“I realized how hard it must have been for her. To go around feeling like you had to be embarrassed and ashamed. That your love of folk music, your drawing, chasing conspiracy theories and weird histories–you could add all of them up, and they’d still feel less than your sadness.” I received a free e-ARC through First to Read from the publishers at Penguin Random House. Trigger warnings: mental illness, depression, suicide. Ray’s life in rural Connecticut is pretty average. He and his best friend, Simon, are nerds that basically fly under the radar, and while Ray’s dad left when he was younger, he and his mom are on fairly good terms. Everything changes when Jane arrives in Burgerville. Inexplicably, she chooses Ray and Simon to be her new best friends, and the three become inseparable as they explore the history and urban legends of their strange town. Jane’s history is darker than it seems though, and when her struggle with depression leads to the unthinkable, Ray is left to gather the pieces and try to make sense of what happened. The History of Jane Doe is basically an updated version of Looking for Alaska. It’s my favorite John Green novel (arguably not his best, but still my favorite), and I like to think I would have felt better about Jane Doe if I didn’t love Alaska so damn much. Jane Doe is better in some important ways. Its representation of mental illness is much more accurate, and Jane’s depression is actually called by name and addressed with therapy and medication. I think it’s important to see teenage characters with mental illnesses seeking help and breaking down some of the stereotypes that come with it. The downside is that it’s missing most of Alaska’s heart. The characters are bland. Ray is the typical Nerdy Male Protagonist, with Simon as his faithful sidekick. His passion for history, particularly the weird history of his small town, is notable, but it never really pulled me in. The best things about him are his attempts to understand what Jane is going through. He never stops trying to help or being on her side. Jane is dry and sarcastic, which are characteristics that wear on me after a while. All that being said, I’m well outside the target age group for this book, and I suspect sarcasm as a personality goes over a lot better in high school. The description of this book made me nervous, since it could so easily edge into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory. While Jane is more distinct than that stereotype, she does fulfill some of the same roles, namely in making Boring Male Protagonist’s life more exciting and meaningful. I wanted to like her, but she never quite moves past “mysterious, edgy girl who can’t be understood”, and I’m tired of that angle. We don’t need more books about men who can’t understand women, YA or not. (In that respect, Alaska is MUCH more a MPDG than Jane, but I still love her the most. Feelings are inexplicable.) On the other hand, the writing itself is good, and structurally, I think the book really works. It moves seamlessly between past and present, and I never felt jolted out of the narrative or like Belanger was leaving me in suspense between the two. It also deals pretty well with Jane’s suicide. It’s clear early in the novel that’s what’s happened, as the narrative alternates between Ray and Simon meeting Jane and their history together and present-Ray struggling to understand why Jane took her life. His grieving process is well detailed and painful (and also includes therapy), and I like the ambiguity of the overall message. Ray will never be able to cope with Jane’s death by trying to piece together their history because he’s asking a question that doesn’t have an answer. Despite what Thirteen Reasons Why would have us believe, sometimes there is no “why.” Sometimes mental illness is an ugly voice that won’t let us see past the darkness. It’s not a very hopeful book, but it does deal well with some serious issues. I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.

I was honestly surprised by this novel. I won't lie - I chose this book primarily because the fun and colorful cover. I thought the premise was interesting and it was entertaining to see that develop throughout the novel. I have only read a few John Green novels, but the writing style is similar (as several of the other reviewers have mentioned). The characters - especially Ray, were likable to me. Jane was interesting to watch develop, although it wasn't a huge shock how the book ended. Generally, it was good read, with issues that I wouldn't have really expected from the synopsis alone. It was an easy read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Belanger's debut novel which deals with friendship, history, coming of age, and mental illness with humor, honesty, and heart. Ray's love of history and his hometown of Burgerville makes him an immediately lovable narrator and the comic relief Simon brings to each scene he is fits perfectly. The characters were all quirky but certainly well-rounded, particularly Jane, whose ups and downs are dealt with in a very realistic way. I hope Belanger continues to write because his crisp, humorous style is one I'd like to read more of.

When I first started reading The History of Jane Doe, I wasn’t sure what was going on and what was the big deal about Jane. I found the x amount of days before and x amount of days after a little confusing at first because I didn’t know what the zero-day event was, since it isn’t revealed until more than halfway through the book. Jane, Ray and Simon are slowly revealed to the reader. Their histories, relationship and their personalities. Ray and Simon are kind of nerds at the school. Ray loves history and is almost obsessed with the Burgerville history. He is always giving a historical fact whether people want to hear it or not. Simon is Ray’s best friend and is very loyal. He also is a big milk drinker. This fact kind of cracked me up because he would bring gallons of milk with him to parties. I really liked Ray and Simon. They are a couple of goofballs who don’t really care if the popular kids pick on them. They deal with it and have a whatever attitude. Jane is the new, mystery girl from New York who decides she wants to hang out with Ray and Simon and quickly becomes Ray’s girlfriend. This book has a lot of humor but there is also a lot of heartache. It slowly revealed why Jane and her parents moved to Burgerville and why Jane is depressed. The book also shows what happens to the survivors when someone dies. How everyone copes differently. Some can come out the other side of the sadness and despair just fine and some can’t. I found I cared for Ray, Simon and Jane and was hoping things worked out for them. This is a book that people should pick up. You won't regret it.

I loved this book. Regardless of whether or not you have lost someone to suicide, you will instantly connect with Ray and everything that he is going through - recreating his history with Jane to try to understand why she did what she did. This was a book that I loved and will recommend to many. I loved and connected with Ray and with Jane. With his mom and Tim. With all of the characters. There is something very relatable about all of them and that makes me want to be in this story - but have the ending be different. A wonderful story that will hopefully reach many people and help those that feel like they might be on an island alone know that they aren't (I realize that sentence is clumsy and I apologize). Pick up this one. You won't regret it.

I enjoyed this novel very much, it reminded me of Looking for Alaska and deals with the same kind of issues. I liked the little quirks and humour of the characters, it made the story more lively. And at the same time, it talks about depression, about the feelings you have after you lose somebody in a realistic way.

First of all, this author is a really great writer. His pros are interesting and funny, and I loved his use of character dynamics and quirks (Simon in particular). He kept me engaged the whole time, and I found myself reading longer than I'd intended each evening because the writing was so great. I also really liked the perspective of a love story told from the guy's point of view. I haven't seen that very often in fiction, and it was a delightful new angle. That said, the plot was a little thin. The "big secret" the author was building up the whole time was very easily guessable, and by the time it was revealed at the end, it wasn't much of a secret. I also didn't think the main character's arc of development was realistic. He deals with depression for much of the novel, which is fine, but he snaps out of it so quickly at the end that it's not believable. I would have liked to have seen a more realistic arc as he worked his way out of the depression. Overall though, it was an enjoyable read! 3/5

I haven't read 13 reasons why, which is what this book will be compared too. This has an upbeat story even with the sadness. Two nerdy best friends are loners until Jane Doe enters their lives. And the rest is history, as the cliche would say. I was pulled from the story in one place, when Ray compares something to a high school reunion. I thought he's only in high school, how would he know what a reunion is like. Other than that I was engrossed and read into the night. Kudos to Michael Belanger. I will read your next story.

I was very excited to receive an advance copy o finish book through Penguin’s First To Read program. As a fan of John Greene, I appreciated Belanger’s story of a trio of teens and all the highs and lows they experience along their journey together. The writing isn’t superb, but be are that sensitive topics are not shied away from or glossed over. I had a lot of feelings while reading this book, but it made me become more invested in the characters and want to know more. Overall this was a highly enjoyable read for me, and I look forward to seeing more from this author!

Ray loves history, especially the local legends involving his suburban hometown of Burgherville, CT. Ray and Simon, his teen vampire loving sidekick, are not what you would call the popular kids in school. When Jane Doe, the cool and mysterious new girl, moves to town and befriends them their live will be forever changed. Ray decides to take Jane through all of Burgherville's strangest historical landmarks to help her adjust to her new life. Ray soon learns that Jane has a history of her own, one that she keeps secret even from him. So this tale begins as Ray recounts the history of Jane Doe. I am giving all of the love and stars to this amazing novel. This has instantly become one of my favorite YA books this year. This novel takes you through laughter, heartache, and even disaster as Ray retells the story of him and Jane. Please be aware that this novel discusses some intense subjects including teen depression and suicide. I felt that the author did a wonderful job with a very sensitive subject and even included his own personal experiences in the acknowledgements and resources for those who suffer with depression. The characters were all so charming and witty and I just couldn't help falling in love with them.

I received the advanced readers copy (ARC) of this book, thanks to First to Read in exchange for an honest review. I picked the book primarily because it screamed 'funny, coming of age and the classic - nerdy boy meets new girl story'. I wasn’t entirely disappointed in my expectations. But have to admit, I got a bit more than I bargained for. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about the book. There was some genuine charm, quirkiness and wit in the writing style adopted by the author. The initial comical banter and the high nerdy quotient appealed to me almost instantaneously. It was also refreshing to have a male narrator in a YA contemporary. The amusing history of the town named 'Burgerville,' green cows (yes you read it right), spooky mansions, flying possum of Williamsburg and a comic books obsessed biology teacher, the book had humour for variety of reader preferences. I also loved the characterisation of Raymond Green. He was such a dork and yet so adorable. He made me laugh out loud or roll my eyes (good naturedly) on multiple occasions. I'm not a big history buff or particularly interested in research of random facts per se. But Ray's romanticism of the subject made me wonder why I wasn't. "Anything that can go right, will go right." - Simon's Law I wish I was equally thrilled with the other characters though. Simon was hardly more than a stereotypical sidekick. And though initially entertaining, his incessant milk references and lactose jokes made me gag eventually. The other minor characters (the moms, dads etc.) were uninspiring and underdeveloped. And the deliberately titled Jane Doe – well I did not get her at all. Her secret notwithstanding, her character sketch didn't exactly make her likable. I suppose it was intentional on the part of the author to portray her in such a manner. The ending would not have made sense otherwise (trying not to give too much away here). I won't go so far as to call Jane's character shallow. But the thing is, and though I particularly liked the title, the book wasn’t much about the history of Jane Doe but rather about the life of Raymond Green. The readers do not get an understanding of the inner turmoil of Jane's mind. There was hardly enough material that helped one to empathize with her thought process. I felt sorry for Jane out of obligation rather than genuine sorrow, while Ray's heartbreak, resonated. The intention of the book may have been to address the serious and relevant issues plaguing many people such as Jane. But narrating entirely from Ray's perspective, I think, the author allowed the heartbreak to get more focus and the real issue to stay in periphery. I think that was where my interest in Jane dissipated and the book failed to elicit the intended response from me. Or perhaps I am simply not the best reflector of teenage angst and all that. Another aspect I did not enjoy was the ease with which the direction of the story was revealed. The timeline alternating between 'the before' and 'the after', made it apparent that the initial jovial atmosphere was kind of a front for the darker issues lurking beneath. It almost felt like a time bomb waiting to explode and usher the murkiness onto the forefront. So in all honesty, Jane's secret, was not much of a secret. A straight timeline I think, would have had a much bigger impact. To sum it up, one of the better contemporaries that I've read in recent times. But could've been better. 3 stars max.

I really like it when the main character feels like a close friend of mine and Ray is one of them. He's funny, nerdy and a history buff, i wish i really have that one particular friend bcs that'd be cool. anyway, i love this book. it's funny, very quirky and heartwarming but also kind of heart-breaking me, I didn't know what really happened to Jane Doe for the first half of the book but then THAT happened. And i was quite sad, we can't save everyone and the demons inside them. i literally hug my tablet when i finished it. such a lovely book.

Ray is a typical, unexceptional high school kid. He has one weird friend, Simon, gets along okay with his mom, and loves history—especially quirky facts about the history of his typical, unexceptional hometown. Ray’s humdrum life changes forever when “Jane Doe” moves to town. We never learn much about Jane’s inner life, beyond the fact that she suffers from depression. She has been hit by tragic events in her life, but her mental illness seems like more than just a response to outside circumstances. Unfortunately, Jane mostly exists in the book to give Ray and Simon interesting lives. The History of Jane Doe is reminiscent of other popular YA novels (John Green’s books come to mind), but I do like Michael Belanger’s writing style. His teenage characters sound like normal kids, not overly precocious or whiny. I also feel that mental illness and depression should be discussed in books for teens and young adults, even though I wish it was better explored here. There are several instances of underage drinking and sexual immorality with zero consequences, which might be realistic teenage behavior, but if my children were reading this, I would want to be able to discuss it with them.

This book won't change your life. You probably won't relate to the characters much, even if you want to. The book's message, while well intentioned, is poorly executed. Taking inspiration from John Green's works, The History of Jane Doe alternates between past and present, telling the story of three quirky teenagers in a town that doesn't appreciate them. Complete with mental illness, a specific and slightly strange addiction, and insta-love relationships that are more about the plot than the characters. That said, it's not poorly written. I finished the book and willingly chose reading this over watching YouTube. For a debut, this book shows promise and when the author finds his own voice I'd love to see what he comes up with. So get the book if it's on sale or at your local library, especially if you're a Green fan.

3.5 stars Ray might not be the coolest kid at his Connecticut high school or the star athlete, but he is an ace when it comes to history. A new student, Jane Doe, enrolls at school and the two teenagers bond as Ray shares the local legends about the town they live in called Burgerville. As the two become closer, Ray realizes that Jane might be hiding some dark secrets. So the book alternates between the present time and the past when Ray first meets and becomes friends with Jane. This is actually done pretty well by the author although it is fairly easy to see early on where the story is headed. But being surprised at the ending isn't exactly the point of this book anyway. The beginning of the book was a bit of a struggle for me because I thought the humor was just a tad too much at times to the point where it didn't feel natural. I like quirky characters but it did take awhile to warm up to Ray and his friends. The book deals with some serious subjects such as mental illness and divorce and it's because of how these topics are dealt with that I do recommend this as a good read. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

***Thanks to First to Read for providing me a complimentary of THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE by Michael Belanger in exchange for my honest review.*** 2.5 STARS Ray, a history buff to the point of OCD, falls hard for new girl, whom he calls Jane Doe to protect her anonymity. He, Jane and his best friend Simon form an unlikely trio. Told in alternating chapters of after Jane is gone and before, Ray takes readers on THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE. Michael Belanger’s writing is the strongest part of this novel. He gave Ray such a unique and unintentionally comical voice while dealing with serious topics. In the beginning, we don’t know why Jane is gone when Ray talks to his therapist. Did she breakup with him, move away or die? Ray was at times likable, at times frustrating. He certainly didn’t always treat others well. Simon was my favorite character, although he was little more than a sidekick. I never connect with Jane or understood the attraction to her. A BRIEF HISTORY OF JANE DOE touched on mental illness, loss and depression, without delving below the surface and an almost insta-cure. As much as I enjoyed Ray’s narrative, a lot of the story was witty banter without much plot. I found myself bored with lack of story movement. Readers don’t get enough of a glimpse into Ray for me to call A BRIEF HISTORY OF JANE DOE a decent character study. A BRIEF HISTORY OF JANE DOE is s quirky, well-written story that some readers will enjoy more than others.

I won't lie, I chose this book primarily because of its colorful cover, which tragically, my black and white nook screen doesn't do justice. Set up in a way similar to Looking for Alaska by John Green (with chapters that alternate from before and after a pivotal moment which also serve as a countdown) it was a bit too familiar for my tastes initially, but, once the plot started to kick off, I found that the set-up suited the book nicely. Thankfully, the books themselves are also fairly different, clearly seen in the lack of green, carnivorous cows in Looking for Alaska. Other reviewers were not lying when they said that this book is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Fair warning for other readers, this book covers serious topics like mental illness, depression, and suicide. As a fan of YA literature and emotional rollercoasters, this book perfectly suited my tastes and I'm excited to see what other YA books Michael Belanger might bring to the table after his wonderful debut!

 


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