I just finished the advanced reader copy of the second in the J'Amigos trilogy by Rose Montague. This book is Jane, which follows Jade (Jill will complete the trilogy sometime in the future), and will be available for purchase beginning next week. First let me say that I loved the experience of having an advance copy. I totally felt like I was in the cool kids club. I am in such awe of authors who write the kind of fiction I love to read that I always feel slightly star struck when any author notices me at all. To get this kind of attention feels like I won the jackpot! I enjoyed this novel, which was written in the best tradition of a buddy story/road trip tale. Jade and Jill are in hot pursuit of a real badass and have lots of adventures along the way. All of which are a lot of fun. But the aspect of the book I liked the best, and which gave me the most food for thought, was the deep level of teamwork, a constructive division of labor and shared effort that the whole story embodies. Jade, Jane, Jill and all their friends and helpers are a wonderful example of people coming together to reach a common goal and achieve a united purpose. In this case the joint effort is to stop a bad guy and help a lot of people along the way.
I love the humanity—in the best sense of that word—of all of Rose Montague's supernatural characters. I love that in Rose's world, so many different types of supes are willing to work together and support each other (this doesn't apply to every singe one, of course, but most). I also loved the excellent example that the main characters portray in their willingness to ask for and accept help. I think these abilities—working together with individuals who are different culturally and socially than we are, asking for help in a way that is expansive and inclusive, rather than humiliating and defeatist, and accepting help graciously and with an intent to return the favor either specifically to those who helped, or more generally to others in need—are highly underrated and neither reported nor exalted in the way they should be or in the way that Rose Montague achieves so seamlessly that one might even miss its importance.
Her first feat in describing characters from different walks of supernatural life working together and accepting each other was interesting and compelling. In creating the character of Jade, who's both a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, mixed in with blues, jazz, hip hop and rap along the way, Rose Montague has highlighted the direction in which our whole society is moving. It's getting to be that we're all mongrels who have bits of many nationalities, cultures, ethnicities and religions in our backgrounds. My children certainly got a mixed bag from me and my husband, whose backgrounds could not be more different (well, I guess they could if one of us were a blend of Basque and Aboriginal and the other were Mayan with a dash of Japanese and the Mongolian steppe thrown in, but still, we come from distinct ancestries). And these days, our identities are not only fluid, but the aspects of ourselves we choose to highlight may change over the course of our lives, depending on many factors, including who we choose to marry, as it did for Jade in Rose's book. The character of Jade is a unifying one, and the mission also serves to bring people together. It's a beautiful thing.
Secondly, I was very intrigued by the ease and grace with which Rose Montague describes the way Jade and Jane, two very powerful beings in their own right, and even more so when they join forces, ask for help. It is as natural as rain for them to seek assistance when they need it without any of the angst or drama that attends mere mortals asking for help. We get so bent out of shape about it. We tell ourselves that a need for help tells everyone that we are insufficient in ourselves to get the job done. Like asking for help is the ultimate admission of powerlessness and failure. Why do we believe that and why can't we get over ourselves? I used to be as guilty as the next person of this silly, self-centered behavior, but I've definitely gotten over myself. Now, my attitude is, why should I struggle to go it alone when I can ask for help and share the load? It seems so simple, but I know from both experience and observation that it just isn't. So it's wonderful to see such a great example of asking for help in action in Jane.
Finally, asking for help and accepting it gracefully are also two different animals entirely. Sometimes, we ask for help but then turn around and resent the hell out of the person or persons who gave it to us. We don't want to need the help, and when someone actually provides it we feel embarrassed or inadequate or deficient in some way, which makes us defensive. And, as I've written about before here, what is the most common idea of a good defense? You got it, a good offense. So we go on the offensive against the very people who are trying to be helpful, loving and supportive. Sucks for all concerned. But not Jade and Jane. They are appreciative and generous with those who have offered to lend a hand in their quest to stop the evil that they are chasing. On several occasions in Jane, the two protagonists go out of their way to acknowledge and repay the generosity of their supporters. It's lovely to see and an excellent reminder of how I want to behave.
So I'm grateful to Rose Montague for both the opportunity to read her new book ahead of time and for the reminder that teamwork works, even among those with little in common, and asking for and accepting help can be done graciously and easily. And for a good read along the way. My favorite things, all together: a great yarn, a good lesson, and a shining example to follow. Can't beat that with a metal baseball bat (to understand that reference you'll have to read Jane, which I suggest you do!)