Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prom and Prejudice

There are many many novels out there that are retellings of or borrow elements from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I have a love/hate relationship with these novels. For some reason I can't help reading them despite the fact that they usually annoy me. A lot. Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom and Prejudice managed to not do that. I found it to be, like its bubble gum pink cover, light and fun.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London. Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway? Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making?

Reading the synopsis you can see this is very clearly Pride and Prejudice reset at a 21st century American boarding school. Instead of every girl aiming for a marriage proposal she is aiming for a prom invite. Every element of the original story is here. (Eulberg did toss out Mary and Kitty, but that can be forgiven as they were fairly superfluous characters anyway.) The way Eulberg tweaked the circumstances to give it a modern flair worked. What is more important, she clearly gets what Austen's point was too. (A thing many people who claim to be Austen fans miss altogether.) As Austen was mocking the courtship rituals of her time, Eulberg is mocking the ritual that is prom. This aspect could possibly have been explored a little more, but I was quite satisfied with how she resolved the prom aspect at the end of the novel.

I did question as I was reading if it would work for a teen reader not familiar with Austen's novel. I think I relied a great deal on  my knowledge of the story and characters to fill in places, which someone who hasn't read Pride and Prejudice would not be able to do. Then there is the way the students talk. The language the kids use is....odd. That's the best word I can think to describe it. It isn't really old fashioned, more like they are trying to sound posh and cultured. No one talks like that even super educated trust fund kids. It was a little awkward in the modern setting and threw me off several times.

Overall this is an enjoyable read. However, if someone told me to choose one YA contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice to recommend I have to say Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman is a better choice. (Love that book. I can't believe I never reviewed it here. Hmmm...) It is nice to have more than one option though and Prom and Prejudice will, I think, appeal to a great many girls.

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