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?” pages 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

This is my seventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, August 10, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a young adult retelling of Sense and Sensibility, or who your favorite character was in the original novel. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 11 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

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

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Sass & Serendipity

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Huzzah! 39 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Blaire who left a comment on July 14, 2011
  • Stacey Graham who left a comment on July 11, 2011
  • Heather who left a comment on July 12, 2011

Congratulations ladies. To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 27th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to author Jennifer Ziegler for her great blog on her new Sense and Sensibility inspired Young Adult novel Sass & Serendipity, and to all who left comments!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sass & Serendipity Blog Tour with Author Jennifer Ziegler

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Please join us today in welcoming young adult fiction author Jennifer Ziegler for the official launch of her book blog tour of Sass & Serendipity a new Sense and Sensibility-inspired YA novel that is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House).

Growing up, I found great comfort in reading Jane Austen.  I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her, but it was sometime during my high school years.  From a purely literary standpoint I would have to say that Pride and Prejudice is her masterwork, but Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite.

I adored the characters of Elinor and Marianne, and, being a sister myself, I could really relate to their relationship – especially the way they were so different and yet still fiercely devoted to each other.  I realized that sisterhood today wasn’t all that different from sisterhood two centuries ago, and I started to wonder when somebody would do a modern retelling – something that would stay true to the themes and moods of the book.

And here is where I make a confession:  I think, in some ways, Jane Austen wrote YA.  Before anyone tosses tomatoes at me, please allow me to explain…

Austen’s books centered around young women on the verge of adulthood.  They are nearly ready to leave the nest and take their spot in the world – and in the Regency era, the best landing of all would be that of a happy marriage to a good and prosperous man.  Standing on this threshold of life is the emotional setting for all young adult novels.  Teens are caught between the insular world of the childhood home and that of society at large.  Even if they don’t strike out on their own at the end, they have surely become more “adult” by the final page.

Austen never makes the search for a proper husband the point of her stories.  In every case the main character needs to go through some significant growth first.  Whether it’s Elinor learning to trust her feelings as much as her intellect, Marianne coming out of her fantasies and into her senses, Elizabeth learning not to judge too prematurely, Emma learning not to meddle in other people’s lives, and so on, Austen makes sure her heroines recognize and overcome character flaws in order to earn their happy-ever-afters.  Such maturation is central to young adult literature, as it is with all good character-based fiction.  However, in YA, the age of the protagonists is key.  Teens and early twenties don’t know as much about the world or themselves quite yet.  Because of this, the problems they face are brand new, but also – and this is critical – their emotions are brand new.  This is first love, first heartbreak, first crushing disillusionment.

Thus, when I really stopped to consider it, I realized that any retelling of an Austen novel would almost have to be a young adult book in order to stay true to these themes and arcs.  At that point it was a quick hop from “Someone should do an update of Sense and Sensibility” to “Yes … and why not me?”

Of course, it was a daunting suggestion.  Me update Austen?  Would I give the original source material the proper care and reverence?  The answer was no.  I mean, I knew I would do my best, but I also knew that I couldn’t duplicate Austen’s prose.  My writing style is just too different.  I also knew that the scope of the book would have to be changed – favorite scenes and characters would have to go.  An exact retelling, with faithful character match-ups and plot recreations would be impossible.  Any attempt would end up a mess.

So, to avoid disappointing Austen fans, my fans, and myself, I decided early on that my novel would pay homage to Sense and Sensibility without being a strict retelling.  It was the feel of the book – the themes of sisterly bonds, romance, and identity – that inspired me to update it in the first place, so that is where I would start.

Ironically, to be true to the tone and premise of her book, I had to stay far away from it.  In fact, I avoided all things Austen while drafting the novel (a huge sacrifice for me).  I didn’t want to be tempted toward replication, so instead, I worked from memory – the storylines, moods, and ideas that had made an indelible impression on me.

The result was Sass & Serendipity, a story of two sisters living in modern, small-town Texas, and their run-ins with romance, economic hardships, societal pressures, and each other.  It was tough to write – but fun.  I really enjoyed getting to “play Austen.”

And now that the book is out, I’ve gotten the best endorsement ever:  my sister, Amanda, loves it.  I hope others will, too.

Author Jennifer ZieglerAuthor Bio:

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of Alpha Dog and How Not to be Popular. Born in Temple, Texas, as a child she also lived in Anchorage, Alaska and then returned to the Lone Star state to attend the University of Texas, where she earned degrees in journalism and English. While there she fell in love with Austin and its many cool hangouts, music venues, swimming holes, and hip people. Upon graduation, she decided to settle there, working as a freelance reporter, editorial assistant, and middle school language arts teacher. Jennifer also met a cute musician guy named Carl and the two got married. Visit Jennifer at her website, or Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @ZieglerJennifer.

Giveaway of Sass & Serendipity

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Sense and Sensibility-inspired young adult novel or which character in the original novel is your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 21, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

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

© 2007 – 2011 Jennifer Ziegler, Austenprose