Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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!