Jo’s Boys is the third and last novel about the March Family (and special friends). It was written by the well known author Louisa May Alcott. It is a pretty clean novel, but I would not necessarily suggest it for a younger child (more on this below).
Before getting into the details, I need to explain something. Though this book was pretty good, I was confused at times. The biggest reason for this is that when I read this book, I had never read the full version of Little Women or Little Men. I read an adapted version of Little Women (which doesn’t cover the entire plot line), and I saw the musical twice (which is, by the way, a fantastic musical). That was sufficient to understand the novel partially, but I have never read Little Men, which was where I had the most trouble. I might have read a summary of the novel, but whether I did or not doesn’t change the fact that Little Men is fairly essential to understanding Jo’s Boys. The reason is that Jo’s Boys covers the stories of some children first introduced in Little Men. Jo’s Boys has so many random characters that it’s hard to keep track of who is related to who. For instance, there are a bunch of young men and women: Josie, Daisy, Demi, Rob, Teddy/Ted, Rob, Dora, Mary, Emil, Dan, Nan, Tom, etc. Although not all of them are first introduced in Little Men, it is much easier to save yourself the confusion by 1) reading the books before 2) reading a summary.
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*
Plot: The story centers around Plumfield once again. Its characters include: Jo March Bhaer (main character), Professor Bhaer (Jo’s husband), Meg March Brook, Amy March Lawrence, Theodore “Lawrie” Lawrence, and many more. There are a lot of different mini plot lines within the whole novel, and it would take decades (ok that’s not entirely true) to get through each story individually, so I will just cover some main elements.
Points worth mentioning:
- There are a lot of romances, which are pretty clean and charming.
- There are a few moments which are perilous for the characters, but it all seems to turn out okay.
- A character murders someone (I think it was manslaughter and maybe self defense).
- A boy who isn’t particularly righteous has a crush on a girl very much out of his league, but nothing really happens except a talk about it, he has her picture, and it was decided it is harmless for him to like her (he doesn’t do anything to her. She is fine).
- Characters don’t always make the right choices, but most (if not all) repent.
Like I said, it is a book with half a million mini plot lines, so it would be hard to cover each and every little thing. I’d steer clear of it for younger readers, unless an adult reads it to them or those elements don’t bother their parents. It is a good book overall, though not as good as Little Women.
Update: After reading Little Men (second in series), the third book makes a lot more sense. I want to reread Jo’s Boys someday when I can fully appreciate the characters. What is weird is that Dan loves Bess, and Dan is probably close to 10-12 years older than her. I guess sometimes boys like girls way younger than they are, but Bess is very young when they first meet. Also, Dan’s friendship with Ted (Jo’s son) starts at a very young age.