Since she was a little girl, Jane Gloriana Villanueva has always done everything by the book—including vowing to remain a virgin until marriage at her abuela’s admonishing. Who would have guessed that as a 23-year-old virgin, getting “accidentally” artificially inseminated (and all the crazy shenanigans that naturally follow) would threaten to derail her entire life’s plan? I know! Straight out of a telenovela!
As season three of the CW hit Jane the Virgin comes to a close and Jane’s life continues to spin out of control, I’m craving more stories like this one. An unimaginable tale told in chapters (with twists you don’t see coming), it’s only right that we offer a Jane the Virgin reading list. Whether you’re a superfan of the hit TV show, or if you’re just in the mood for a great new read, you’ll love these 9 books.
No worries, you won’t find any season three spoilers here.
If you’re a die-hard JTV fan, you probably recognize WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE as one of Jane’s favorite books (it was even one of her book club’s picks). In Maria Semple’s zany novel, Bernadette Fox is missing and it’s up to her 15-year-old daughter, Bee, to find her by compiling clues in email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence, which makes for a compulsively readable and touching novel.
Bernadette Fox is a fiercely independent wife and mother, when one day she disappears. It began when her daughter Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her agoraphobic, making a trip to the end of the earth a bit of an issue. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Jane the Virgin is its ruminations on faith, sexuality, and motherhood—because what’s more fascinating than a pregnant virgin? THE PURITY MYTH is Jessica Valenti’s in-depth cultural and social analysis of our obsession with virginity. This is the perfect book to understand the social implications—and dangers—of placing a girl’s worth entirely on her sexuality and puts unique stories like Jane’s into perspective.
Agatha Christie’s EVIL UNDER THE SUN is set at the Jolly Roger, a posh vacation resort for the rich and famous. Sound familiar? There’s never a shortage of mysteries (or dead bodies) at the Marbella, the fictional hotel where Jane works. In Christie’s page-turning mystery, a young bride is brutally murdered and only the meticulous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, can unravel the macabre mystery. This is the perfect book for Jane to turn to when putting on her amateur PI hat.
Of course, no list of murder mysteries worth its salt can leave out legendary writer Agatha Christie. In EVIL UNDER THE SUN, meticulous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the trail of the killer of a sun-bronzed beauty whose death brings some rather shocking secrets to light.
When Jane’s abuela, Alba, falls down a flight of stairs (or was she pushed?) and is rushed to the hospital, she’s worried about her status as an undocumented immigrant. Diane Guerrero, who plays Jane’s best friend and co-worker, Lina, perfectly captures the plight of undocumented immigrants and their families in her moving memoir IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE.
As Jane frantically works at her debut (hopefully, award-winning) historical romance novel, she might want to turn to Philippa Gregory—a master of historical fiction—for some guidance. WIDEACRE is Gregory’s scandalous debut about Beatrice Lacey, the beautiful and rebellious woman willing to go to any means to inherit her family fortune and protect her family name. Notes for Jane: seduction + betrayal + murder = winning historical novel.
You might remember (because how could you not?) Jane’s highly unethical but totally imaginary (so, it’s okay) make-out session with her academic adviser, Professor Chavez. Their shared love of Isabel Allende’s classic THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is, understandably, what kicked Jane’s crush into high gear. Anything from Allende’s inspired backlist will win over “Jane the Virgin” fans, but this one is just right for fans of universal stories of love, magic, and fate.
“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”
In the short time we’ve known her, Jane has transformed from an unassuming virgin and waitress to a passionate single mother and aspiring writer (and, still, a virgin). In THE IDIOT, Selin is a young woman dealing with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. She’s a lot like Jane—just without the modern-day immaculate conception.
What do Jane and the protagonist of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, Rachel Chu, have in common? Their unexpected plunges into the lifestyles of crazy rich boyfriends and baby daddies have thrown them for a loop because, as we all know too well—more money, more problems. On the arm of the most eligible bachelor in Singapore, Rachel’s visit to her boyfriend’s family home turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers. The outlook isn’t looking too great, but let’s hope things fare better for Jane.
Not only does Britt Bennett’s debut touch on how mistakes can be inherited through generations; more important, it brings abortion to light in a very real way much like “Jane the Virgin.” Jane’s ambivalence over aborting her unexpected pregnancy; her mother’s uncertainty over aborting Jane; and Alba’s crisis of faith in the face of such weighty decisions remind us that either choice could have potentially damaging and life-altering consequences. In THE MOTHERS, it isn’t just Nadia Turner’s life that is changed by her decision, but the lives of many in her Southern California community.
Tolani’s Fictional Dinner Party Guest: The Mothers
I waited years to sit at the grown-ups’ table at family dinners, hoping to catch a juicy story or an important life lesson. In Brit Bennett’s THE MOTHERS, the narrators, “the mothers,” walk the line between guidance and gossip quite ruthlessly. Despite it all, congregants of the Upper Room Chapel see them as pillars of the community who, unbeknownst to the churchgoers, know all of their secrets. So watch what you say at the dinner table.