This is one of the best Jane Austen adaptations I’ve read in a long time, maybe I’m just moving toward only wanting to read YA adaptations but honestly it made me laugh and similarly to The Season I read back in November I read it pretty much in one sitting. Basically, this book did for Pride and Prejudice what Clueless (IMDb link) did for Emma.
Seriously, if you don’t believe me just go look at the number of Austen adaptations/modernizations that I’ve read here. I’ll wait.
This may not be the most original or even the closest adaptation, but the general idea is there (like Clueless!). Set in L.A. you’ve got the richest of the rich from movie star’s children and media mogul children to international students attending an elite preparatory academy. Throw in the children of the faculty and staff on scholarship and you can see where eI’m going with this.
There was just enough innocence of Elise and Jane Benton the modern Bennet sisters to make the premise still work, but not enough to make it ridiculous. There were a few instances where I wanted to shake (or really, slap) one or both of them or any number of the other characters, but I had to remind myself that they were in high school. The embarrassing Mrs. Bennet is modernized into the principal (called Dr. Gardiner – kept her maiden name) and the ensuing embarrassment of having your parent at school is kind of obvious, but written well. I found the Darcy modernization, Derek Edwards, to be broody in just enough of a way to make it believable, but also realistic. Instead of being a wealthy socialite, he’s the son of two major movie stars and has grown up with the paparazzi and is incredibly standoffish because of the fame and fortune hunters he has to deal with.
If there’s one thing I thought was a bit odd, and thinking about it the same thing goes for Clueless, these kids are entirely way to young to be declaring love and forever after with each other. I mean I’m not that much of an old stodge yet, but seriously high school seniors and juniors finding the loves of their lives? I guess it does still happen – I know a few people married to their high school sweethearts, but very few — definitely not like “in the old days.”
Recommendation: If you’re looking to dip your toes into the Austen fan-fiction/adaptation/modernization world this is a pretty good start. It may be a little light and fluffy, but it’s a solid retelling with enough of a spin to make it feel original. Honestly, the story could almost stand completely on it’s own if you changed all of the characters names and took away the Austen connection.
Opening Line: “The front office wasn’t as crazy as you’d expect on the first day of school, which seemed to confirm Coral Tree Prep’s reputation as ‘a well-oiled machine.'”
Closing Line: “I just couldn’t think of anything left to wish for.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes form Epic Fail
“I was isolated but not ostracized, ignored but not abused.” (9)
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” (40, Oscar Wilde)
“He’s never shown the slightest interest in you before. I mean, he’s never stared at you like you’re the only person in the room when we’re all together. Or sulked around for days because you turned him down for a dance. Or touched the sleeve of your sweater when he thinks no one’s looking—” (203)
“No one’s family is normal. Normalcy is a lie invented by advertising agencies to make the rest of us feel inferior.” (243)
“I got lost in him, and it was the kind of lost that’s exactly like being found.” (271)