Tuesday 11 February 2014

Epic Fail by Claire Lazebnik

This is a young adult story, based on Pride and Prejudice.  Elise (the Elizabeth character) and her family have relocated to California from Massachusetts.  Her mother has taken a job as a school principal at a school that Elise and her sisters will attend. Elise is the second of four sisters.  Her elder sister, Juliana, and she are very close.  Then there is a bit of an age gap to Layla (the Lydia character) and the youngest in the family is 10 year old Kaitlyn.

Juliana immediately catches the notice of Chase.  His sister Chelsea is a bit of a snob, she is desperately trying to catch the notice of Chase's friend, dishy Derek.  Derek's parents are Hollywood royalty and he is used to people noticing him, talking about him, and girls falling at his feet.  He is very standoffish because of the amount of people who are trying to become his friend purely because of his parents' fame. He's not especially welcoming to Elise or Juliana, and Elise makes a new friend, Webster Grant (the Wickham character) who reinforces Elise's prejudiced beliefs that Derek thinks he's better than everybody else. Derek knows that Webster isn't the nice guy he portrays himself to be, and does his best to ensure that Elise doesn't get taken in by Webster's charm.

Although this is set in the modern day, and the characters are teenagers, many of the main events from Pride and Prejudice were recognisable, and some I thought were particularly ingenious, such as how Layla is rescued from Webster, and how Chase and Juliana's relationship is temporarily split.  I thought that the Webster/Georgia (Derek's sister) back-story was particularly clever, because what he had done is plausible in a modern setting and just as despicable as Wickham's attempted behaviour in P&P. There were also some quotes which referred back to quotes in Pride and Prejudice, which I really liked.

There were some differences however. Firstly, Derek is less flawed than Darcy - not only is he far less proud but he is far less active in his friend's relationship.  Elise, although likeable, is less likeable than Lizzy. One of the things I always liked about Lizzy was the playful tone which deflects a lot of the hurt from her statements; Elise's sarcasm is much more blunt. I also wasn't sure what she saw in Webster. I know I was coming at it in the knowledge that he was the Wickham character and not to be trusted, but I thought he was a bit of an idiot.  I felt the character of Layla was so much more sympathetically portrayed than Lydia Bennet, rather than being brash and uncontrolled she is desperately trying to be grown up and part of the tight relationship between Elise and Juliana, and they aren't letting her in.

I also felt that the ending was a little bit sudden.  I would have liked to have had an idea of what was going to happen after the end of the story. Miss Austen didn't give us an epilogue but she did give us some snippets about Elizabeth and Darcy's future, and we were clear where the relationship was going, but in this, since they are in different years in school and Derek is talking about moving away, it's not clear at all.

I thought this was a really good modern update of Pride and Prejudice, and I'd certainly recommend it. I think it's aimed at a teen audience and I would be happy to give it to a younger person to read.  There are some vague references to taking things further than kissing, but nothing explicit, and there are only a few instances of swearing.  This author has updated some other Austen books; there is a Mansfield Park update (The Trouble with Flirting) and a Persuasion update (The Last Best Kiss) is due for release in April 2014, and I plan to read them both.

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