Pride and Popularity by Jenni James
Amazon | Goodreads
Contemporary/Retelling, 240 pages
Published July 13th 2011 by Inkberry Press/Brigham Distributing
When I finished this on Goodreads, a GR friend asked me "Have you no shame?" and I just want to state for the record: no, I do not. I will pick up every damn thing with "Pride and _________" or "___________ and Prejudice" in it... Nor do I regret that, because sometimes they turn out to be worth it. This was actually really enjoyable, though certainly aimed at a particular segment of the reading public.
It started out really rocky for me, actually, because it just felt like James was getting the characters (or the characters of the characters) wrong; Chloe-aka-Lizzie was really closed-off and downright rude, and Taylor-aka-Darcy was too suave and likable. I mean, Darcy's not likable - he's an ass. You grow to love him, and you appreciate him for appreciating the fantasticness that is Elizabeth, but he didn't write the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, ya know? (Well, maybe How to Influence People, but not so much the making of the friends...) They dynamic that works so well about this story is that Elizabeth is strong, smart, and lovable - but blinded - and Darcy is honorable, caring, and thoughtful - but doesn't show it. When you mess with that dynamic, you may have a pleasant story that works in its own right, but it fails as a P&P retelling by default. (For me, anyway.)
So on some level, yes, this did fail as a P&P retelling, because I don't think there characters were ever fully rectified, though they did have the classic moment of understanding and the reversal. But that aside, it's very recognizable as P&P, even as modern and young as it is, and (amazingly, because I wasn't expecting it), it did even inspire some of the same feelings I had with P&P. It pulls you in in a similar way, and you find yourself loving how the characters are always talking at cross-purposes and misunderstanding each other (willfully or otherwise), just as in P&P. The story moves very quickly, and other than a tendency towards telling over showing and some general cheesiness (especially in the dialogue, which is rough, and which was a big part of what was throwing me off in the beginning), it remains charming and wholesome throughout.
Now, that being said, I think I should share the author's disclaimer:
If you are hoping to find a YA book full of paranormal beasts, sex, or teens who act much more like under-aged adults, I suggest you save your money and do not buy this book. In fact don't buy any of The Jane Austen Diaries. However, if you are looking for a clean, lighthearted, sweet romance, where teens are good and happy and normal--like all of the teens I know (including my own!) then read on. You've come to the right place. :) --JenniThis is going to be the major deciding point for most readers. Pride and Popularity is a very youthful, very wholesome retelling, definitely geared toward younger readers, and those hoping to avoid even the whiff of anything "quesionable" - and readers should know this going in. I didn't know, and just plunged right in, and it took me a bit to readjust my perception of what the story was going to be and who it was aimed at. The characters are, I wanna say, fifteen, which inevitably means the content is going to be cutesied up and a bit fluffier - and even more immature - than some Janeites may be looking for in their adaptations. I myself am hesitant when it comes to "fluff" but I think in this case, it's well done fluff. It's just wholesome and harmless, and it made me smile. And as I mentioned, it's a very quick read, so certainly not a waste of time for insatiable Janeites or those looking for something age-appropriate and sweet to introduce P&P to their pre/young-teens.
** Don't forget to check out the excerpt and giveaway of Pride and Popularity!!