Jul 052019
 

Persuaded By Peer Pressure and Fear of Social Suicide

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

TYPE OF NOVEL: Persuasion Modern Adaptation, Young Adult

SETTING: Los Angeles, Present-Day

SYNOPSIS: When she was a freshman, Anna Eliot was secretly dating her short and nerdy carpool friend, Finn Westbrook. That is until he wanted to dance with her at the semi-formal and she rejected him in front of everyone. Even though her actions filled her with regret, Anna was never able to make it right because Finn’s family soon moved away and he transferred to a different school. Now Finn is back for senior year at Sterling Woods High, and he is taller, broader, and less socially awkward. Finn is easily accepted by Anna’s friends this time around, but now acts completely indifferent towards her

WHAT I LOVED:

  • Clever Character Reincarnations: Bringing Jane Austen’s characters to the twenty-first century and turning them into teenagers isn’t always an easy task (exclusion to this statement: Lydia Bennet) 😉 I greatly enjoyed the thoughtful and clever ways Claire LaZebnik captures the essence of Jane Austen’s characters with her modern reincarnations. Anna (Anne Elliot) comes from a divorced family where the parents and one sibling are self-absorbed and neglectful. Finn (Frederick Wentworth) wears glasses and is obsessed with the natural world. Lily Diamond (Louisa Musgrove) is Anna’s eccentric friend who always strives to challenge the norm and delights in doing the opposite of what is expected.
  • Appropriate Parallels: Again, I really appreciate how the author utilizes and updates the various events from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I found the premise of Anna rejecting him based on her concern for what her friends would think plausible and apropos for our modern society. In addition, I thought the modern updates for the visit to Lyme Regis, Louisa’s fall from the Cobb, and William Elliot’s interested in Anne to be astute and refreshingly original parallels.
  • Typical High School/Typical Teens: As with Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting, Claire LaZebnik’s portrayal of modern teenagers feels authentic. Granted most of her books feature well-to-do teenagers living privileged lives, but their conversations, issues with friends and ‘fitting in’, concerns over SATs and colleges all felt true to teenagers living during this time. It never felt forced or improbable; I never thought “teens don’t really say or act like this.”
  • Persuasion Translated: One central theme and message for this story is “be true to yourself and don’t worry so much about what other people think.” Which I felt was a very applicable and accessible way to translate the central theme from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In addition, it is such an important message for young teens today. In our world where people mock, cyberbully, shame, and conceal their true selves it was inspiring to see a story that encourages being brave, seizing happiness, being yourself, and thinking independently.
  • Side Characters: I appreciate that characters such as Wade Porter(William Elliot), Ginny Clay (Mrs. Clay) and Molly Eliot (Mary Musgrove) were given updated and interesting story-lines. I really liked how these characters had significant differences with their Regency counterparts, yet ended up serving a similar role in the story.

WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:

  • Anna: Seeing Anna choose to reject Finn because of her own fear of being ostracized by her friends, made me like her a little bit less. Unlike Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot, it was more Anna’s decision/fault than her being persuaded by others. This Anna’s actions felt more hurtful and selfish than Jane Austen’s Anne, and unfortunately, at times, it made her less likable.

NOTE: Jane Austen fans might be pleased to note that this author currently has 4 Austen-Inspired Young Adult Modern Adaptations published at the moment – Epic Fail (P&P), The Trouble With Flirting (Mansfield Park), The Last Best Kiss (Persuasion), and Wrong About the Guy (Emma).

CONCLUSION: This story felt like an entertaining combination of Jane Austen meets Mean Girls! Even though I wasn’t fully in love with our heroine in this tale, I greatly enjoyed this captivating and refreshingly relevant update! An excellent choice for readers who love Persuasion inspired stories!

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  12 Responses to “The Last Best Kiss – Claire LaZebnik”

  1.  

    Thanks for this excellent review. I probably would have ignored this book without reading your review. YA books don’t appeal to me as much as a true P&P variation.

    •  

      Thanks for checking out my review, Sheila! I know most Austenesque readers aren’t typically YA fans…I like to mix it up every now and then and YA/New Adult stories seem to do that quite well for me. Also, I never read YA when I was a teen…so I guess I try to make up for it now! 😉

  2.  

    Hi Meredith. Thanks for the review. I’ll have to check this author out. Sounds compelling.

  3.  

    I’ve been collecting this series of books and just need to get busy and read them. I can appreciate how this Anne taking an inappropriate action for her own needs is different from Austen’s Anne who let herself be talked out of something. Always fun to see how the story translates forward especially when it comes to teens.

    •  

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear that you are collecting this series too! I hope she writes 2 more – I have 1 left to read! It really is interesting to see the creative ways that authors find to update and transform Jane Austen’s characters and plots!

  4.  

    Thanks for an entertaining review. Like Sheila, YA works don’t grab me in the same way that others do, possibly because it’s been such a loooong time since I was that age! I guess this and the others might be a good way to gradually introduce the works of Jane Austen to young people, before going full-on with the source material.

    •  

      I can understand that, Anji, it is a different tone. And it is different to read about younger characters. I definitely hope that these works help young readers find their way to Jane Austen’s novels!

  5.  

    A terrific review, Meredith! I always appreciate your insights, especially regarding what you like and also are not terribly fond of. Your reviews are clear, articulate, and beautifully detailed without giving us too much information. Each book you review seems just as enticing as the last! 🙂

    (Sorry if I sound too “teacherly”; I was grading essays just before I read and replied to this post!)

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    •  

      Thank you, Susanne! Your praise makes me feel so happy! I do try to be all those things…most of the time now I am pushing to write my reviews faster because 1. I don’t have as much time to write reviews 2. I rather spend more time reading. I’m so glad you find this book enticing!

      Sounds like you are a wonderful and encouraging teacher! ☺️

  6.  

    Thanks, Meredith, for bringing this book to my attention. I’m always fascinated by how different authors recast Austen’s characters in a modern YA setting. Have you read Mary Pagones’s Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements? I thought that was a clever reimagining of Austen in a high school context. In any case, thanks for the review, and hope you’re having a great summer!

    •  

      Happy to share! Yes, it is so fun to see all the creative ways these characters and stories can be updated! I haven’t read that one, sounds interesting! Will have to add it to my wishlist!

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