Elizabeth Eulberg, Prom and Prejudice
At the prestigious Longbourn Academy for girls, money and status matter more than anything else, so scholarship students are constantly taunted and made to feel like outsiders. Lizzie Bennet is one of only two scholarship students in her class, and while she knows she’s lucky to be getting such a good education, she can’t help feeling miserable due to her low social status. Her only friends are the other scholarship girl, Charlotte Lucas, and her roommate, Jane. Jane has a thing for Charles Bingley, a popular student from nearby Pemberley Academy who’s been studying abroad for the past semester. When he returns, he acts really interested in Jane — but his snobby sister Caroline and moody friend Darcy don’t seem to approve of the relationship. Lizzie is happy about Jane’s romance but takes an immediate dislike to Darcy. However, as she gets to know him and his group better, she realizes that she may be letting her prejudice against rich people blind her to the truth.
As should be obvious, this is a modern-day version of Pride and Prejudice set in a young adult context. Though I’m an ardent fan of Jane Austen, I’ve found that the various Austen-inspired sequels and spinoffs are usually nowhere near as wonderful as the original novels. There are exceptions, of course, but unfortunately this book isn’t one of them. The plot sticks to the original P&P fairly closely but doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the story. None of the characters have any depth — even the protagonists — which made it hard for me to care about them. Even more importantly, I found the world of the novel unbelievable. While I accept that there are high school bullies and snobs and cliques, it seems wildly unlikely that everyone at Longbourn would be actively mean to Lizzie (stealing her stuff, throwing milkshakes on her, etc.) just because she has a scholarship. I understand that the author was trying to re-create the social hierarchy that existed in Austen’s day, but the end result just wasn’t credible. I have read YA Austen spinoffs that work very well — Polly Shulman’s Enthusiasm is a wonderful example! — but this book didn’t do anything for me.