I am rather picky about reinterpretations of Austen. Pride by Ibi Zoboi more than lived up to my standards.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it's a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it's not just the junky stuff they'll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night's trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever broken things go. What those rich people don't always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love.
The Benitez sisters are well known in their Bushwick neighborhood. Their mother's ongoing social personality means there home is never short on food or visitors. Their father works hard to support them, but everyone knows he still has an eye on his girls, what they're doing, and who they're hanging out with. Zuri loves this neighborhood and its people. She knows every crevice and individual's place in it, which is why she is a little worked up when someone buys the broken down house across the street and renovates it. It is fancy now and yet another sign her neighborhood is changing fast. As a result, Zuri's heart is not into welcoming the new family who moves in with their two teenage sons Darius and Ainsley. Zuri's older sister Janae, newly returned from her first year at college, is not so hard-hearted and almost instantly begins to fall for the charmingly sweet Ainsley. Almost as instantly sparks begin flying between Zuri and Darius. Zuri finds Darius to be stuck-up and just know he thinks he's too good for their Brooklyn neighborhood. After Ainsley abruptly breaks off his relationship with Janae at a fancy party the Darcys host, Zuri is convinced everything she knew about the Darcys is correct. As their neighborhood and Zuri's life continues to change in ways that are a mix of scary, sad, exciting, and full off potential, she learns maybe she doesn't know everything she thought she did about herself or the people around her.
My first impression of a Pride and Prejudice retelling is always based on how well and fast I connect with the heroine. Here it was instantaneous. I have a very different life from Zuri, but I get who she is on a deep level. Her connection with literature, her judgmental lens, her desire for solitude, and her fierce love for those closest to her were all things that pulled me into her world within the first few pages. I also loved her voice. Zuri's personality and view of her world quickly bring all of it to life and paint it with brilliant colors. For the most part, everyone in the novel has the personality and function as their counterpart in the source. They are adapted perfectly for the setting and become very much their own people. Darius is an excellent foil for Zuri. Their banter is wonderful and the way he comes out of his shell and is definitely as imperfect as he needs to be. The growth of their relationship over the course of the book is organic and makes sense. Often in YA interpretations of Austen this is a part that can feel forced, but it was natural and fun to watch unfold here.
The entire neighborhood and the Benitez's Afro-Latino roots are vividly brought to life. Pride is a short book in comparison to both the original and many current contemporary YAs, yet it has a firmly established sense of place. The people make the community and the community thrives on the page as a result. The theme of gentrification and its impact on community is explored without ever becoming didactic or heavy-handed. I appreciated the way things resolved too. Another important theme of the book is the inevitability of change and how that is harder to contemplate and adapt to for some individuals. The way these two are woven together and are brought out through the many different personalities is extremely well done.
Pride is a book anyone can enjoy whether a fan of Pride and Prejudice or not. It wholly stands on its own as a wonderful, romantic story about life, community, family, growth, and love.