Emma Approved!

I can’t believe I didn’t discover this sooner, but the folks who brought us the Lizzie Bennet Diaries have returned with a new web series based on Jane Austen’s Emma! It’s called Emma Approved, and it is pretty freakin’ adorable! Here’s Episode 1:

Yes, Emma’s self-confidence is grating and borderline crazy, but that’s part of her charm! Subsequent videos reveal that while she is incredibly determined and doesn’t take no for an answer, she also really cares about her friends and wants them to be happy. So far I’m really enjoying this adaptation, and I can’t wait to see what happens next! Videos are posted Mondays and Thursdays, and there’s still plenty of time to catch up! 🙂

Review: Spies and Prejudice

Spies and PrejudiceTalia Vance, Spies and Prejudice

Berry Fields isn’t exactly your typical teenage girl. Working as an assistant for her P.I. father, Berry is more likely to spend her weekend tailing a suspect than hanging out at the mall. She has also caught so many cheating boyfriends and husbands in the act that she doesn’t fully trust any of the guys she meets. So when drop-dead gorgeous Tanner and his stepbrother Ryan show up at her school, Berry is immediately suspicious and hostile — especially when she overhears Tanner dismiss her as “nothing amazing.” Meanwhile, Berry continues to grieve for her mother, who died eight years ago in a supposed accident. But Berry can’t help suspecting that there’s more to the story…and the more time she spends with Tanner, the more she’s convinced that he’s hiding something.

First off, this is definitely not a book you want to judge by its cover (which is pretty awful, am I right?). It has been described as a cross between Pride and Prejudice and “Veronica Mars,” and if that concept appeals to you, I think you’ll enjoy this book! I found Berry a very believable and interesting character, and her investigation into her mother’s death was a great way to propel the story forward. The romance between her and Tanner was well done, not too melodramatic or sappy, and the mystery balanced out the love story very well. I didn’t 100% understand the final solution to the mystery, but I was reading pretty quickly by that point, so I probably just missed a few background facts along the way. Finally, I really liked the way P&P was incorporated into the story; there’s enough for Austen fans to pick up on and appreciate, but it’s not an exact replica of the original plot. I like the fact that this book uses the P&P framework but incorporates its own spin. Definitely recommended to YA and Austen fans!

Review: Prom and Prejudice

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth EulbergElizabeth 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.

Jane Austen for the new millennium

If you haven’t seen the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube yet, you really need to do so right now. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

Pride and Prejudice
gets updated in this series of videos where Lizzie Bennet is a grad student doing a vlog for her master’s thesis. Her pushy mother is dying for Lizzie (and her sisters Jane and Lydia) to marry rich men, but Lizzie is more focused on her career. Then the handsome and eligible med student Bing Lee comes to town…and they’re off!

I’m pretty addicted to these videos at the moment. The acting is generally solid, and the modern-day update is very clever. The story follows the book fairly closely while still making it work in a contemporary setting. Plus, the clothes are adorable! New videos are posted on Mondays and Thursdays; right now Lizzie is visiting her best friend, Charlotte, and she’s just had a surprising conversation with a certain Darcy…

Bottom line: if you’re an Austen fan, you won’t want to miss these!