It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a Young Adult book as much as I did this one. Despite being a quick and light read, I felt the author did not underestimate her audience like other YA authors sometimes do.
The book opens with the Austenesque line: “There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast”. Julie’s best friend Ashleigh is what the author calls an enthusiast: she goes from one obsession to another emerging herself in it completely. When Julie finds out that Ashleigh’s new obsession is something she’s passionate about herself: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she’s a bit afraid her friend might go too far. Ashleigh dresses up in gowns, refuses to wear jeans and talks in Austen-like speech. Julie feels it is a little wrong to try and copy her favourite novel, but she remains loyal to her friend. That’s why she agrees to join Ashleigh in her plan to crash a fancy dance at the all-boys prep school, where both girls fall in love with the same boy, Grandison Parr.
Throughout the book author Polly Shulman uses Austenesque language and refers to novels by Jane Austen, yet I think the book might be enjoyable to readers who’ve never read Austen before. Also, Shulman never makes the mistake of shamelessly copying the plot of one of Austen’s novels. Although the love-story was a bit predictable, it never got annoying. And the friendship between Julie and Ashleigh is admirably worked out. Instead of turning their shared love-interest into the subject of a headless fight Shulman gives us a subtle look at the feelings and struggles of Julie. Both Julie and Ashleigh are personalities I think most of us can recognize. Ashleighs obsessions must sound familiar to most of us, and although we might not go as far as Ashleigh, her utter shamelessness is somewhat admirable as well. Julie’s quieter and contemplative side will appeal to most readers as well.
All in all, this is one of the best Young Adult books or books that feature Jane Austen/a Jane Austen obsession that I’ve read. Highly recommended.