Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice.

While Daphne moons and dreams about her new heartthrob Luke, Gabby has reason to not believe in love. Sonny Hutchins, a young boy she connected romantically with one incredible brief afternoon died in a tragic accident which she is certain his rich, spoiled cousin Prentiss Applewhite is to blame for. Her deep affection for Sonny is her secret that she shares with no one, not even her best buddy Mule. Gabby is certain that the only one you can depend on life is yourself.

As Gabby retreats into her reclusive inner world of loneliness and grief, Daphne’s histrionics are abrasive and unproductive. She deals with her family’s emotional crisis’ by ignoring reality, worshiping her flake of a father and falling madly in love in a moment. Her mom tries to bring her back into reality…

“Real life, real love, isn’t the way you see it in movies or read about in books,” her mom went on. “I hate to see you risk yourself like this. I just wish you’d be more sensible.”

“Sensible.” It was one of those words Daphne hated. Something she apparently wasn’t – along with being “responsible” or “mature.”  “Sensible,” she repeated, considering the term. The opposite would be “foolish,” right? “Silly.” “Idiotic.” “Stupid.” “Do you mean sensible like Gabby, who’s never even been on a real date? Or sensible like you, who couldn’t make her marriage work?” (99-100)

When late child support payments and a steep rent increase cause a crisis for the Rivera women, they must move in a hurry. Feeling fatalistic, Gabby is certain that they would be better off homeless. Life changes for the two sisters when Daphne’s unsensible way of dealing with life challenges results in more troubles than she ever dreamed of until help from an expected source saves the day and Gabby must face facts about her fond memories of Sonny and her feelings for his cousin Prentiss before the two sisters can find happiness.

In Sass & Serendipity, author Jennifer Ziegler has given us a boldly creative tribute to 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. Her modern interpretation of the two sisters: one too sensible and the other not sensible enough mirrors Jane Austen’s Dashwood sisters beautifully. Even though the plot does not follow Austen’s storyline faithfully, the essence of the emotional dilemma that each of the sets of sisters face with life and love challenges is a great match. Ziegler reminds us that sisterly relationships are like no others, filled with friendship, rivalry, devotion, frustration, love and “strong family affection.” Read Sass & Serendipity to remember that incredible time in your life when you were on the cusp of adulthood and a sister or best friend in your life made all the difference.

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50

4 out of 5 Stars

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Press (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

Cover image courtesy of Delacorte Press © 2011; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2011,

19 thoughts on “Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

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  1. I’ve been trying to interest my teenage granddaughters in something other than all the paranormal novels now so popular with young adults. This sounds like a book I could encourage them to try. Then maybe on to Sense and Sensibility, of which Elinor is my favorite sister. Thanks for the giveaway.


  2. What intrigues me in reading a young adult novel is how a young adult novel portrays the character and events based on a well known and well loved classic. I am curious as to how much they made it for a younger audience and what they used instead to replace adult themes, if any.


  3. This sounds very interesting–I think S&S would lend itself very well to a modern young adult/teen setting. I had to really think about who my favorite character is and am surprised to discover that it is Edward. Colonel Brandon is a close second. Very close. I may change my mind as I type this… LOL


  4. I haven’t read a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibiltiy, but this one sounds really interesting. My favourite characters would have to be Elinor and Colonel Brandon.


  5. I have to say I like Mrs. Jennings, though only as a character. I would be annoyed if I had to put up with her for any length of time, but the book wouldn’t be as hilarious without her. She also has good points to her though, she teases because she likes and genuinely thinks that the target is enjoying the attention. She is also very loyal, if a bit misguided.

    melorabrock {at} gmail {dot} com


  6. I would be very interested in reading this modern retelling. I have a difficult relationship with my own sister and would enjoy reading to see if these two can work it out.


  7. When I first saw that is was a YA book I didn’t think I would be all that interested in reading it. But after reading the description it sounds like it might be a good book to read after all. It is one I am definitely going to get for my best friends daughter.


  8. The Dashwood sisters truly had some wonderful, loving people in their lives during their times of need. I loved Sir John Middleton with his profound generosity and love of society. I also loved Mrs. Jennings as she just took the sisters under her wing and chaperoned them through London. It’s all about relationships isn’t it?


  9. I would love to read something that could be a “gateway” to Jane Austen for my students. Anything to peak their curiosity about the classics!


  10. What would intrigue me the most would be the time change. I love all Jane Austen modern adaptations, and I’ve really wanted to read this one.


  11. I think the sisterly relationship of S&S translates very interestingly into modern society, so a current YA retelling would present some challenges – but also a lot of fun :)


  12. I think that YA retellings of Austen’s works are a great way for teens and tweens to ease into the worlds. I always loved Col. Brandon, so it will be interesting to see the retelling of that character.


  13. I would love to read this YA retelling of Sense and Sensibility. I have really enjoyed the other YA retellings of P&P and I’ve never read any retellings of S&S. I love the relationship between Elinor and Marianne!


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