Genres: YA Contemporary Romance
Published by Simon and Schuster
Released on September 14, 2010
“It is a truth universally acknowledged…” is the start of one of the most beloved literary classics of all time. It is also one of the main explanations of why Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is still popular and going strong 200 years later (Jan 28th 2013 is the book’s birthday to be exact). That is to say that she wrote universal truths to which we can relate even in our day.
This is true for a set of girlfriends and their mothers who participate in a book club together and find some uncanny parallels in their own lives while reading the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy along with a host of other characters in the Jane Austen classic.
Even though this is the fourth book in the series, I had no trouble picking up the book and reading the story. I chose this one because of the cute title and story blurb. I adore Austen’s stories and contemporary books based on them. There were so many enjoyable things about this book outside of the actual story. First of all, each chapter takes up a different girl’s perspective. I was worried that it would re-hash things from the previous chapter just from how a different girl saw it and bog down the story, but it doesn’t really. Then I enjoyed that its a story that is centered around a book club and it was cool that there were actually book club meeting scenes complete with the Fun Facts About Jane sheets included in the story. And finally, I enjoyed how the story was about modern high school girls, but still managed to subtly fit in the loose plot to the original Pride and Prejudice. And when I say modern, I mean that there are video conferences with the members of the club that are away in England and one of the girls actually does a blog called Fashionista Jane (not a book blog sadly, but hey I guess we can’t have it all).
The story revolves around four fifteen year old girls: Emma, Jess, Megan and Cassidy who live in Concord, MS. They have known each other for donkey’s ages along with their families. Each girl has a unique situation and interests including other friends (which I thought was a good thing that they weren’t self-absorbed). One of them, Jess, even attends another school. Their determination to remain close friends and their prioritizing of the book club keep them from drifting apart with their separate lives.
Jess and Emma are best friends and even have a special rule ‘BFBB’ or Best friends before boyfriends.
But all this is strained when Emma’s parents announce that they are going to do a type of cultural exchange swap and take their family to live in England for a year where Emma’s dad will continue to do his writing and her mom can soak up history and literature to her heart’s desire while Emma and her brother will get exposed to another culture. While Emma’s family stays in a cottage in a village outside of Bath, the cottage’s occupants, the Berkeleys, will stay in Emma’s house while the dad guest teaches at the local university. This of course shakes everyone up, but everyone makes the most of it determining that they will continue with the book club through webcam.
In England, Emma deals with her own Mr. Collins and Caroline Bingley while back home Megan meets her Mr. Bingley and Cassie tolerates her Mr. Darcy. Jess pines over the real life Darcy, Emma’s brother. All this in the midst of daily school and activities filled with happiness, sadness, disappointment and triumph.
Honestly, I found this book very captivating as I followed along with each girl through the year that Emma and her family were away (Emma’s side gets told too). It was fascinating how the author was able to really convince me that I was reading four different girls’ perspectives when it switched up. I also felt that she did well making me feel that I was getting a real fifteen year old perspective on things. These girls crush on boys or in Cassidy’s case learn to think of them for more than sports pals, but it isn’t all about teen romance. They worry about what they’re going to be when they grow up. They deal with the usual array of teen issues and responsibilities. There is also a strong family presence portraying the dynamics in each girls’ home.
Most people who read this will probably relate cto one of the four girls more closely than the rest and that is true of me. I found myself laughing and groaning over the thinking processes and antics. There were a few times when I shuddered at a choice made thinking, ‘This won’t end well’. And it didn’t- went down in blaze of glory. The girls had their moments, but I liked all four of them because in general they were well-rounded, caring unselfish girls. They actually started a pie selling enterprise to pay to bring Emma home for spring break because they knew she was having a hard time with Annabelle or Stinkerbelle as they call her. Then there is a sad moment they makes them all really take a look at their lives and the influences people have on our lives which I thought beautiful in a way even as I got a little lump in my throat.
The dips into the life of Jane Austen and the Pride and Prejudice story were great. It was done in such a way that those who are familiar with the author and book are not bored and those who are entirely unfamiliar will not be overwhelmed and clueless. The author cleverly used the girls varying literary interests and experiences to help with this. In fact, some of the girls and moms listen to the audio story while others read aloud together and yet others just read alone.
The biggest compliment that I can offer is that I wish Heather V. Frederick had written these books when I was a teen because I would have gobbled them up and dreamed of having friends and a book club like this. I plan to go back and read the first three stories that focus on a few other favorites of mine like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.
The book is a clean read and can be read by the very youngest teen to the young at heart with ease.
Those who enjoy chick lit, teen contemporary romance, and Austenesque stories will like this one.