YA Review: EPIC FAIL by Claire LaZebnik

I always like to give a shout-out to authors when their marketing efforts get me to read their books. I read a blog post by Claire LaZebnik, and the blurb for her current young adult book–which my library didn’t yet have–led me to a previous one, which they did. Once I saw that EPIC FAIL was a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I had to read it right away. I mean, I’ve told you all before how much I love PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, right? It’s basically the best novel ever written, and I will devour every movie, book, vlog, etc., based on it that I can get my hands, eyes … you get the idea. So, this book was so good I started it one afternoon, went on a date night with my husband, and when we got home I told him I wanted to finish it and stayed up until midnight to do so. (Yeah, date night consists of taking advantage of the day care’s “late night” until 9 p.m.) Anyway, here’s the cover and description.

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnikAs the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, new-girl-on-campus Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long. Fans of Susane Colasanti (When It Happens), Polly Shulman (Enthusiasm), and, of course, Jane Austen will love finding out if Elise’s love life will be an epic win or an epic fail.

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The setting – L.A. was the perfect setting for this retelling, with Derek as the son of Hollywood stars. Like Darcy, he had connections and wealth without being royalty himself, so people fawned over him and wanted his attention. He was a stepping stone on the way to that royalty. I could just imagine Jane Austen inserting each of her characters into this modern setting.

2. Elise’s wit – Elise is the perfect Elizabeth, with a witty comeback at every opportunity. Of course she catches Derek’s attention. Here’s a snippet where the others have just learned their mom’s the principal and their dad is a math teacher.

“For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure we’re not related to any of the lunch ladies,” I said.

“Too bad.” Chase turned to me with his ready smile. “I could use an in at the cafeteria.”

“The sandwich lady does owe me a huge favor.”

That actually caught Derek’s interest. He looked up. “Really?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “But it’s a long story–involves this knife fight in Brussels back during the war. She was smuggling, I was a double agent for the resistance. . . . The usual.”

“Is she always this nuts?” Chase asked Juliana.

“Pretty much.”

3. The familiar – Every one of these characters is familiar to me. I can clearly trace them back to Austen, but at the same time they’re relevant to current times. I’m always impressed when someone can do that well.

4. The romance – It always comes back to the romance for me with Austen, so it has to with this one, too. I love the way they misunderstand each other even while their feelings are growing. Plus, there’s the added bonus of kissing, which you don’t get in Austen :).

5. The pacing – I kind of mentioned this above, but I couldn’t put this book down. It’s rare these days for me to read a book in one sitting, probably because I do so much reading for the purpose of furthering my market knowledge than just for fun these days. But this one held my attention to the point of having to finish it at the cost of sleep.

What other Austen retellings have you read and loved? Or what other retellings in general do you love to read over and over?



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