Spanning the era of the American Revolution, this young adult novel is a coming-of-age story about an English orphan sent to live in the fledgling United States with her uncle. Jane soon finds her loyalties torn between her Loyalist guardian and her Rebel cousins. Life becomes more complicated when she finds herself attracted to a Rebel, while being romanced by her uncle’s obnoxious son and a British officer. In the end, Jane must choose between family, love and loyalty.
Jane herself is an appealing heroine, thought at times she does seem a little too good. Still, her courage and dedication to family are well motivated. The secondary characters, however, all seem rather stereotypical, with the exception of Cousin Hugh. He stood out as a flesh and blood person, just like Jane. The writing itself is adequate, though at times the overabundance of telling, rather than showing, distances the reader from the events. More successful was the setting: Mr. Lavender immerses his reader in colonial America, incorporating a wealth of detail, effectively recreating Charleston and its outlying plantations. A well-paced and often exciting tale, Just Jane will appeal to younger teens eager to learn about early America. (Ages 12+)