Persuaded: The Jane Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James – A Review

Persuaded, Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James (2012)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. Continue reading

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

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg – A Review

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Young adult fiction author Elizabeth Eulberg is back with Prom and Prejudice, her teen driven homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg has quickly earned a name for herself in the world of teen romances due to the popularity of her debut novel The Lonely Hearts Club. Her novels have a flare for the comedic which this blogger believes is to her credit, as it shines as one of her strengths. She takes perhaps the most well known line that Austen ever wrote and adds her comedic flair to draw us in.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.”

It is with this line that we enter the world of Longbourn Academy, an all-girls school filled with rich, privileged, boy-crazy teen girls who have fashion designers on speed dial and have never heard the word no before. Hoboken native Elizabeth Bennet is the new scholarship student who is tortured on a daily basis for her poor and meager background. Her roommate Jane, fellow scholarship student Charlotte Collins, and piano teacher Mrs. Gardiner are the only friends that Lizzie has at Longbourn. Lizzie understands that she’ll never be accepted into the society of her fellow students and thus throws herself into her academic studies and the piano, where she has incredible talent. Being friends with Jane however does thrust her into the company of Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, and Will Darcy. (Will and Charles attend Pemberley Academy, the all-boys school near Longbourn) There are some sparks between Lizzie and Darcy at first, but they quickly fizzle out once her scholarship status is found out. Unfortunately the two continue to be thrown into each other’s paths since their best friends Jane and Charles are dating. Unbeknownst to Jane and to Elizabeth, Charles’ sister begins putting a wedge in between Jane and Charles. Caroline is unimpressed with the company that Jane keeps and finds Jane an unsuitable match for her brother. Charles soon disappears from Jane’s life, causing Jane to have a major meltdown. With prom only weeks away and Vera Wang already beginning her designer prom gown, how will she show her face without a date?! Elizabeth tries to convince Jane that prom is not the most important thing in life, but to a Longbourn girl it’s the social event of the season. Will Jane and Charles get back together in time for Prom? Will Lizzie and Darcy ever get over themselves to see the other for what they truly are?

If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice and have a younger girl in your family that has no interest in reading it, get them to try Prom and Prejudice. I can almost guarantee that after reading it they will be interested in trying Jane Austen. Elizabeth Eulberg has crafted an excellent teen drama with the characters from the novel we’ve come to know and love. Elizabeth Bennet is a spieited heroine who has amazing strength, tenacity, accomplished piano skills that could rival Georgiana Darcy’s in the original novel and some misdirected notions of the wealthy. Jane and Charles are kind, caring, and looking for the good in everyone. Wickham is still a womanizing jerk, always scheming for a way to discredit Darcy. Darcy is still always looking out for his friends and family with a fierceness in him that is sometimes misjudged for arrogance and conceit.

I really enjoyed this fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg did a fantastic job in creating a new story to bring to a younger audience and adults too. I’ve read quite a few Austen inspired novels (as chronicled here of course) and I wasn’t bored with it at any point. It was refreshing to read not only a modern adaptation of Austen’s work, but one that adapted it to a time that we all experience in our lives, our teen years. You can definitely relate to the main characters as they struggle with finding a date for prom, trying to get through finals, first loves, broken friendships, etc.

My only disappointment was in its length. At 288 pages it was a tad short and could have benefited from a longer conclusion to the story. I’m hoping that Eulberg will continue writing more about Lizzie and Darcy inspired novels in the future. It’s a nice change to read about their teenage versions, and I think it provides a new audience an entrance into the world of Jane Austen.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
Scholastic, Inc. (2011)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN:  978-0545240772

© 2007 – 2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Polly Shulman’s ‘Enthusiasm’ for Jane Austen is Infectious!

I had a blast reading Polly Shulman’s novel Enthusiasm, her hommage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! It had been released in 2006 and was on my ‘to be read’ list for quite some time until I felt the need for something summerish and light to read. Since it is classified as a young adult novel for grades 7-10, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by a less than sparkling plot and characterizations. My assumptions were so wrong! Totally!

It is quite amazing to think that this is Shulman’s first novel! If you check out her picture on her web site she looks barley old enough to be ‘out’ in society!. Educated at Yale Univeristy as a mathematician, she obviously possesses both left and right brain skills! This writer is pea green with envy and is in total awe of this level of talent in one so young. Like Jane Austen, Shulman is all about language, social observation and characterization. It is easy to see why Austen is one of her favorite authors and how she inspired her writing.

The book’s auspicious opening quote, “There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast” sets the tone of Austen-esque language throughout the novel that is respectful but not mimicy to Austen’s prose. The narrative is told from the perspective of fifteen-year old Julie, whose best friend since grade school is Ashleigh, an ‘enthusiast’. From Harriet the Spy to candy-making to military strategy, Julie never knows what or when the next craze will over-take her friend, but she is certain to be pulled into it. Now, her latest inspiration is also Julie’s passion, Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. However, Ashleigh’s new possession of Regency manners and decorum mortify her conservative friend. Not only do they include speaking in Austenese, but wearing Regency attire to school, learning to country dance like her idols Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and ultimately, the ardent pursuit of her own true love. Ashleigh’s latest hair-brain scheme is to find their Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley by crashing a boy’s prep school dance!

Knowing Austen’s world through her novels and movie adaptations was helpful, but not a prerequisite to enjoying this delightful novel. By following Julie’s 21st-century hardships, anxieties, mix-ups, and social blunderings we see that they are interchangeable with any 19th-century Regency Miss’ life; — for what young lady of any era does not wish, hope, and dream that a young gentleman will notice her, and return her affections?

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Regency Stars

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman
Puffin, New York (2007)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN:  978-0142409350

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© Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose