REVIEW: Unearthly Things

Book Review: Unearthly Things
book cover Book title Unearthly Things
Series/standalone standalone
Author Michelle Gagnon
Pages 288
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Retelling | Mystery | Supernatural | Contemporary
Rating 3star

Official Summary

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most fabulous—and dangerous—elites.

After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.

Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.


In A Nutshell

A modern retelling of Jane Eyre with biracial MC, 100% more wave, and more … ghost? Or was it an actual ghost?


  • Biracial protagonist. Janie Mason, the lead/narrator is half Filipino. She spent her childhood in Hawaii before being transported against her will to San Fransisco to live with the Rochesters. Janie didn’t know much about her ancestors since her parents, specifically her mother, didn’t want to talk about her painful past. Despite not knowing much, Janie is curious and trying to learn more about her roots, something many readers may find themselves relate to.
  • The story pace. I recalled vehemently trying to finish Jane Eyre on two separate occasions before finally succeeded. It took me sometime around 2 years?! Unearthly things is definitely faster paced than its predecessor. For some readers, this might be the book’s Achilles heel, trying to fit so many things in less than 300 pages and truth be told, characters development suffered slightly from it. However, for me, the pace is probably the saving grace of this book. It made Unearthly Thing a fun ride and compulsively readable.
  • The contemporary part. Honestly, I opted to read this book for its paranormal/mystery aspect since I’m now focusing on reviewing speculative fiction. However, the part I enjoyed the most is the story of Janie, the surfer girl, moving to new family and meeting new people. She is a sympathetic protagonist and easy to root for. Her interactions with her evil and not-evil ‘siblings’ are hilarious and occasionally heart-breaking.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Stereotypical characters. The necessary evil siblings, nerdy best friend, and hot boyfriend were all there and made it felt formulaic. For readers who have read Jane Eyre, let me tell you that this is a loose retelling and for most part, the author just borrowed the names and slap them to completely different characters. Unfortunately, for Unearthly Things, character depth is lacking and I found no chemistry between Janie and her love interest. It was so insta-love, I couldn’t get on board with it even if I liked the person who became her love interest. Similarly, Janie was said to have close friends, but there was nothing in the book that suggest the close relationship between them.
  • The book is a mystery, but somehow it’s lacking in atmosphere. Jane Eyre might take me forever to read, but one thing it truly delivers is Gothic atmosphere. Unearthly Things is more generic in comparison; the description not nearly as haunting and the scenes didn’t scare me.
  • Compare to its predecessor, Unearthly Things didn’t deliver as strong message of female empowerment. Granted this might be an unfair comparison seeing that Jane Eyre is a classic. However, when I hear ‘Jane Eyre retelling’, I’m hoping for a book in a similar vein. Unearthly Things is surely fun, but it didn’t have the same power nor did it make an effort to.
  • Some of the key plot and twist are not convincing enough. There were scenes that made me think, “did they actually buy that explanation?” and they did! Sure, it’s fiction and a speculative one at that, but readers still want logical explanation.

Final Score

3 stars (out of 5 stars)


Unearthly Things is a fun, modern retelling of Jane Eyre. The author’s effort to support diversity by putting a biracial protagonist at the front and center is commendable. However, stereotypical secondary characters, plot holes, and the lack of convincing atmosphere made it fall short from being a truly satisfying read.

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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Unearthly Things

  1. I really do need to read Jane Eyre. I can see it on my bookshelf from here as I type this. 🙂 I’m not really in the mood for a classic right now, but I’ve been reading a lot of hard science fiction lately. In terms of female empowerment many hard sci-fi novel are . . . uh, shall we say lacking to say the least?

    1. Hahaha. Don’t worry about it, take your time. I’m the same when it comes to reading classics, I feel that I need to read them but I don’t really want to. 😛 They do surprise me sometimes though. I actually liked Pride and Prejudice even though I am not a big romance fan.

      Oh yes, hard sci-fi novels and to some extent, epic fantasy, tends to lack in strong female leads and empowerment message. I am not sure I ever read a hard sci-fi with female empowerment message, but then again I haven’t read a hard sci-fi in the last one or two years so I’m definitely out of loop when it comes to science fiction.

      1. Yes, there are some classics I really like, but I’m always hesitant to start them.

        A lot of my relatives love Pride and Prejudice. They have discussions about it at our family reunions. I think they got my expectations too high, because I only like, but didn’t love it. However, as far as they’re concerned, I love it too. . . Hopefully they won’t read this comment.

        Yeah, I don’t think I have read a female empowering hard sci-fi either. Other types of science fiction, yes, but not hard sci-fi. I think it goes back to the myth that women can’t write the genre.

        I’ve been reading a lot of hard sci-fi lately because I’m planning to write one. Unfortunately, my work does not contain female empowerment either, but I don’t think it’s dis-empowering either. So, that’s good, I guess?

        This conversation is really making me consider why so many of my characters are male. It’s unusual for me. Usually, there are more females. Maybe I’m subconsciously adjusting to genre expectations or something.

        1. Haha I don’t think they’ll ever read this post. 🙂 Anyway, you’re probably right it comes down to expectation, at least partially. I didn’t have high expectation prior to reading Pride & Prejudice. As a matter of fact, I fully expected not liking it, since I am not a big romance reader.

          I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Before we even get to female empowerment, we need to get more female characters first, I guess?
          Yeah, I understand what you mean. I think you’re not the only writer who’s subconsciously adjusting to the genre, after having read so many of them before writing one.

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