If Jo March met Jane Eyre, and science was somehow up to making them a baby, and then that baby was tragically orphaned (sorry, ladies) and then one of Dickens' benevolent benefactors stepped up to send her to college and insisted that she repay him by writing monthly letters, then Jean Webster would be entirely moot. FORTUNATELY FOR US she isn't, because that hypothetical situation is laughable (Jo and Jane would never get along).
So. Jerusha Abbot (later 'Judy' because 'Jerusha' will get your ass kicked) is a quietly feisty orphan at one of those dingy, gruel-eating orphanges until a benevolent benefactor sends her off to college and insists that she repay him by writing monthly letters (at which point she is still a feisty orphan, but one at college and with an allowance). He never writes her back, so even though we're only reading her letters and getting one side of the conversation, it's the only side of the conversation so it's fine.
And by 'fine' I mean 'hilarious.' Because Judy is winsome and spunky and just the right amount of insubordinate. She begins by re-naming her benefactor 'Daddy Long-Legs' because she saw his tall, skinny ass leaving the orphanage and because he has asked her to address him as Mr Smith which, lame. Her letters are full of early 1900s women's college shenanigans PLUS illustrations (more about which below) PLUS she's new to this whole 'education' bit, so she keeps saying things like 'Speaking of classics, have you ever read Hamlet? If you haven't, do it right off. It's perfectly corking. I've been hearing about Shakespeare all my life but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation.' Which more or less mirrors the first time I read Hamlet, except I am not given to saying 'perfectly corking.'
And the illustrations! (They are perfectly corking.) Word on the street is Webster drew them herself, and they add a delicious bit of wtfery because they are mostly like this:
Ha ha, what? That is like a pictoral representation of the sort of prim wackitude you can expect to find in the words-part of the book.
High-spirited protags can either be done very well or very badly, and Webster does Judy so right that what actually happens in the novel hardly matters (Judy learns biology, writes short stories, gains independence, envies her friends' silk stockings and proper parents, has tea and goes for long walks with various gentlemen, etc.). The cover is highly embarassing, though, because I brought this to the gym with me and felt like I was reading Madeline.
In sum: reeeeeeeeeed eeet.
things mean a lot