Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
When it comes to contemporary Austen-inspired novels there seems to be as much written for Young Adult audiences as there is for general audiences – (a fact I am extremely delighted with!) What I love even more is that many of the authors who pen these Young Adult Austen-Inspired stories, write them in series and include an installment for each major Jane Austen novel (even Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey! Woot Woot!!) Some of the authors who have written these YA Austenesque series are Cecilia Gray, Jenni James, Rosie Rushton, and the author of the novel I’m about to review – Claire LaZebnik. Epic Fail is the first Austen-Inspired novel by Claire LaZebnik I’ve read and I believe it is the first one she wrote.
In this super clever and fresh YA update of Pride and Prejudice Elise (Elizabeth) and Juliana (Jane) Benton are the newest students at Coral Tree Prep school in Los Angeles, CA. They moved to this high-priced and swanky school filled with the offspring of the rich and famous because their mother was just appointed principal. It’s definitely awkward being the new kid in school…add to that an über-strict, yet celebrity-obsessed mom, and you are definitely on your way to being a social pariah.
Elise’s older sister, Juliana seems to have no trouble fitting in at Coral Tree, on the very first day she makes a friend with Chase Baldwin (Bingley) and is immediately welcomed into his crowd. In Chase’s crowd is his good friend, Derek Edwards (Darcy), who Elise immediately pegs for an stuck-up jerk. Rather than wait and see if her first impression may be incorrect, Elise avoids all conversation and interaction with Derek (he probably doesn’t miss her attention what with his massive fan-club and all.) Elise instead strikes up a friendship with Webster Grant (take a guess!) who while not part of popular crowd, seems charming and sweet in a self-deprecating and sincere way…
Cliques, fashion, the importance of appearance, social faux pas, limited freedoms – it may not seem like it at first, but there are a lot of similarities between Jane Austen’s world and the world of modern teenagers. One of my favorite aspects of this book was how well I felt the author captured the essential themes and conflicts of Jane Austen’s world and translated it to modern-day. In addition, there were several scenes and events that were reinterpreted in such clever and unique ways – with parties, formals, class field trips, and texting (it isn’t about marriage, dowries, and proposals in this update!)
The other aspect of this story I greatly enjoyed were the characters and their dynamics with each other. The sisters’ relationships reminded me a lot of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which is funny because this story was published way before LBD!) Layla’s eagerness to party with her older sisters and check out “hot guys,” Juliana kind and patient ways towards everyone, and Elise’s snarky sarcasm and edge, definitely brought the ladies of LBD to my mind. I thought the other characters included in this story were well-represented and imaginative as well. Fans of Pride and Prejudice will definitely notice a few key players to be absent (but maybe not missed…) My one minor quibble is with Derek and Elise, I would have loved to seen a little more of their individual identity and personality. Sure, they are students, siblings, daughters, sons, and friends…but what about their interests and hobbies? Who are they outside all of those things?
Regardless of this minor quibble, I found Epic Fail to be exceptionally readable and entertaining! I appreciate the homage paid to Jane Austen and applaud the imaginative and captivating storytelling. I definitely plan on reading more books by Claire LaZebnik and I recommend you do as well!
Claire LaZebnik Austen-Inspired Novels
Epic Fail – Pride and Prejudice (© 2011)
The Trouble with Flirting – Mansfield Park (© 2013)
The Last Best Kiss – Persuasion (© 2014)
Wrong About the Guy – Emma (© 2015)