From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:
One of the greatest things about book blogging is the ability to spread the gift of reading to everyone that comes across my blog. This is especially true with younger readers, who may have less exposure now to “the classics” than I might have had at their age. So, any attempt to get younger readers engaged with great writers of the past is applauded by me. Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail does just this by emulating the beloved Pride and Prejudice to be more accessible to young adult readers.
If you go to high school in Los Angeles, Coral Tree Prep is where you want to be. And if you’re a guy that goes to Coral Tree, Derek Edwards is who you want to be. As the son of famous Hollywood parents, Derek reigns over the school, not bothering to interact with most of the other lowly students around him. One of said students is Elise Benton, who as the daughter of the school’s new principal isn’t the most popular girl in school. She and Derek have an unlikely social collision; however, as her sister and Derek’s best friend become an item, bringing the two of them into the same social circle. Refusing to fall for his charm, Elise instead opts to befriend Derek’s polar opposite, a likeable social outcast named Webster Grant. Will Derek actually begin to want someone that he can’t have? Or will Webster prove to be more than he appears?
The book is definitely written in a manner that will appeal to teens. Younger readers will be able to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, which I can only guess will make them enjoy the story further. I found myself remembering how annoying I thought my parents were when I was a teenager, with restrictive rules on cell phone time and curfews. And who doesn’t remember their crush on the hottest boy in school, and their jealously over the girls who got his attention?
I REALLY enjoyed the route LaZebnik took for the “Lydia affair.” Being peer pressured to drink, do drugs, or have sex are common problems that teens face, and I give her a lot of credit for dealing with it in the respectful manner that she did. LaZebnik carefully construes the feuding parts of the characters’ minds in making the right decision. She makes the right thing to do the cool thing to do.
I think parents will look at this as a great book for their teens to read, one that encourages them to make the right decisions regardless of what they’re being pressured to do. It encourages independent thinking and individuality, traits that will make them better adults. I heartily recommend this for teens in 8th grade and those entering high school. (I recommend it so much, that I’m sending my copy to my teenage cousin!)
4 out of 5 Stars
Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik
Trade paperback (304) pages
Cover image courtesy of HarperCollins © 2011; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2011, Austenprose.com
By the way, that “Austen’s Birthday Soiree” photograph on the site is beautiful.
I’m not sure if a dumbed-down version of Jane Austen will bring younger readers to the real thing; but I’m all in favor of any book for young people that “makes the right thing to do the cool thing to do,” as the reviewer cleverly puts it!
Sounds like a good book for our younger ones. I appreciated your review. I’ll be looking into it for my granddaughter.
I was unaware of this adaption for the younger crowd. Jane Austen’s work really does transcend time.
Thanks for the review!
Great review. I always like to see how writers put a modern spin on classic tales.