I’m a sucker for Jane Austen. And the idea of a modern Austen story appeals to me quite a bit. Claire LaZebnik has written several so far, and for the most part they make for some fun modern romances.
Epic Fail: Elise Benton is the daughter of Coral Tree Prep’s new principal, and she’s not impressed with her new school or with Derek Edwards, the son of Hollywood royalty and prince of the school. However, when her sister fall for Derek’s best friend, she finds herself getting entangled with both Derek and his charming enemy Webster Grant. And the deeper she gets the more Elise wonders if some first impressions are quite wrong. As a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Epic Fail isn’t bad. It’s not the best one I’ve seen (that honor goes to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries), but it’s a fun quick read and will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and Anne Brashares.
The Trouble with Flirting: Fanny Pearson’s summer takes a surprise turn when she gets to work for her aunt, the costume designer at the Mansfield Summer Theater Program. Not only is it better than scooping ice cream or selling shoes, but it also lets her be near her crush Alex Braverman. Unfortunately, he seems to be besotted with his leading lady, and when Harry Cartwright starts flirting with her, Fanny thinks that a causal fling can’t hurt. Suddenly, everything is more complicated than Fanny had planned, and flirting might bring her far more trouble than she expected. To be honest, The Trouble with Flirting was a disappointment. As a light romance, it’s fine, but as a modern version of Mansfield Park, it just didn’t work. I also found it hard to like Fanny, and when you don’t like the main character, the book can be a bit of a slog. Unless you’re just looking for a quick teen romance to read, I’d give this one a skip.
The Last Best Kiss: Anna Eliot made a mistake freshman year. She dated Finn Westbrook in secret then ended it because her friends’ opinions. She’s regretted it ever since. Now suddenly in her senior year, Finn is back. But it’s clear that he hasn’t forgiven her for how she treated her, and he seems more interested in one of her friends. Anna knows she still loves him, but she’s not sure that he’ll ever give her a second chance or if she should even try, but despite that, she can’t give up hope just quite yet. The Last Best Kiss is a solid story if not quite as strong as Epic Fail. It works well and is a fast read. It works quite well as an adaptation of Persuasion and makes for both a great little love story and a fun romantic read.
Wrong About the Guy: Ellie Withers can’t help the fact that her stepfather is a well know singer and TV star, and she’s not spoiled, not really. So she wishes that George Nussbaum would stop implying that she is or making her think that she could be a better person than she is. Still, she’s got her friends Heather and Aaron who either don’t care or have parents just as famous are hers. So, it gets a little awkward when her mom hires George as her tutor after she gets her SAT scores and everything around her seems to start coming apart. But when she begins to see George might be right about some things, maybe she can fix the mess she’s in with everything else. Like the heroine of the book Emma which Wrong About the Guy is based on, Ellie is one of those characters that some readers will never like. The spoiled sweet main character doesn’t work for everyone, and Ellie isn’t as charming as Elise or Anna (though she’s better than Fanny in my mind). Still, it’s a fun read with a little less romance than the previous books, and the messiness of Ellie’s life definitely feels like reality. Overall, its an average read but still fun.
These books are great for fans of romances and romantic comedies. Fans of Jane Austen might find some of them hit or miss, but if you’re being introduced to Miss Austen’s works for the first time, these aren’t bad modern versions. I’d definitely give them at least a try.