From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder:
Most of us bonafide Austen lovers strive to share our love of Austen with everyone around us. Whether it’s sharing her novels, a film adaptation, or a novel from the JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) world, we try and spread the “word of Austen” everywhere we can.
When trying to share Austen with the younger generation I’ve frequently found that teens lose interest due to the terminology and writing style of that time period. The explosion of young adult writers using Austen as their inspiration is, I think, the answer to this problem! Jennie James is doing her part to get the next generation “into Austen” by modernizing each of her six major novels in her Jane Austen Diaries series.
In Persuaded, a modern retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, James introduces us to Amanda, a high school student who has a crush on her classmate, Gregory. Although her heart tells her otherwise, she bows to peer pressure and rejects Gregory’s advances, telling herself that he isn’t good enough to win her heart. Saddened, Gregory and his family move out of Farmington, the town in which Amanda resides. Three years later, these words come back to haunt her, as Gregory returns to Farmington and is a whole new man. He’s matured physically, and all the girls who previously mocked him are drooling over him. Can Amanda convince him that her actions in the past were an act? How can she make him believe that she’s secretly had a crush on him the whole time, and not just after his transformation?
James definitely writes in an upbeat and accessible way that is appealing to the young adult crowd. This is especially important as winning this demographic over is crucial to the continued success of Austen’s works, and ensures that they will have an eager audience for many years to come. I was curious as to how she would handle the adaptation of certain aspects of the original, such as the famous scene where Louisa Musgrove jumps off the Cobb at Lyme and hits her head. With a bit of imagination and four-wheelers in the desert, James handled it quite well! It dovetailed nicely with the modernity of the work, which included texting, email, and other modern comforts that made the book all the more appealing to younger generations. Although the story seemed almost a bit too polished and puffy at certain times for me, it is most likely due to the fact that I don’t read YA fan fiction as much as I should. Regardless, if you’re looking for a great way to introduce a friend or family member to the wonderful world of JAFF (and perhaps the original works themselves!) give Persuaded a try. It’s a delightful, clean, and fast-paced YA read that is sure to be a hit.
4 out of 5 Stars
Persuaded, by Jenni James
Walnut Springs Press (2012)
Trade paperback (242) pages
Book cover image courtesy of Walnut Springs Press © 2012; text Kimberly Denny Ryder © 2012, Austenprose.com
While nothing can replace the original, I love the idea of meeting a younger generation in the middle–making the story more modern–so they can grow into a love of Jane Austen. Wish it was available when I was a teenager!
This is the next installment in a long history of modernizing Austen. “Clueless” (one of my personal faves) was my first introduction to Emma. It’s own artistic merits aside, I will always appreciate it for introducing me to the wonderful world of Austen!
I really fancy reading these modern versions by Jenni James having read the samples, P&P and Persuasion particularly. I am unsure as to whether the Northanger Abbey one would work having read the sample, but I’d probably give them all a go!
I’ll have to recommend this to my 17year old niece!