Little Women Retelling: The Spring Girls
The Spring Girls by Anna Todd is a modern retelling of Little Women, which is, let’s be honest, every little girl’s favorite book. I was so excited to read this! I I love Louisa May Alcott and I love retellings of classics!
In The Spring Girls, Meg is a personal makeup artist to their wealthy neighbor, Mrs. King, Jo is counting the days until she can graduate and move to New York City, shy Beth is homeschooled, and Amy is there, too. The family is having mysterious financial worries, even though their father’s deployed and he’s just had some kind of promotion.
I wondered a little bit how this story would modernize successfully, since a lot of tension in Little Women has to do with the sisters needing to marry money or supplement the family with side income from a gently non-threatening small project. A lot of the marriage plots of classic novels just don't work without that drive to marry well. But it works, because the story is on an army base, with army wives selling candles and Lularoe and making a career out of being an officer’s wife. That part of the modernization works so well, but it is, unfortunately, just about the only thing that works.
Something is off with the pacing. I realize this sounds like useless workshop feedback, since I can articulate what’s not quite right without putting my finger on what, exactly, would fix it. The first third of the book takes place between Christmas Eve and New Years, including sections that are so beat-for-beat that it feels more like a parody than homage. Then, the story progresses in fits and starts, with some really forced events. The main pastime on this base is passing by and overhearing highly relevant conversations.
There’s a lot of cool foreshadowing here with John Brooke’s weird reluctance to introduce Meg to his mother (Is she too poor? Has her reputation, after an old boyfriend leaked an NSFW photo, reached his mom? Is he two-timing Meg?), but that’s never resolved. There’s also a lot of cool foreshadowing with Beth and her role in keeping her parents together, but that’s never resolved. And Jo is writing a Very Serious Piece for Vice (On spec, but with an assigned word count? On assignment, but without mentioning that she’s sixteen?), because she is every teenage girl with Big Dreams of being a writer in the Big City. Amy is there too.
In the last couple pages, there are so many revelations that there’s no time to process them. Amy is revealed as the real sender of tragic breakup emails from John Brooke to Meg, but Meg shrugs it off, since she’s about to leave the country with some other dude (I’m about 90% sure they’re going to Cambodia?), Jo bangs Laurie, Beth gets a girlfriend, and the financial weirdness with the March parents just goes totally unresolved. Amy is there, too.