3.5 stars. At this point, my expectations for Jane Austen retellings are so very very low. There are about 2 that I can think of that I would recommend to anyone and considering I’ve read plenty? That’s not a great batting average. It’s like authors/publishers know fans will pick them up so they don’t feel like they have to try very hard. People LOVE Lizzie & Darcy so of course they’ll read. But in truth, you’re getting compared to one of the best writers of the last few centuries, so you should try harder. If an author manages to capture some essence of Austen’s wit, social commentary, inventiveness, or ear for dialogue, I’m a happy reader. At this point, I don’t expect all of them in a modern day book because that author doesn’t currently exist.
So I was pleasantly surprised when reading Pride and felt myself being swept away by it. Zoboi manages to capture some of the social commentary (though it’s not as subtle as Austen) and she certainly has an ear for dialogue. I listened to the audiobook version and I highly recommend it because the poet Elizabeth Acevedo narrates. Zuri (our Lizzie) is a burgeoning poet, so having someone speak so lyrically was a major plus.
If you want a straightforward retelling, this one’s probably not for you. Many of the plot points are the same, but it’s very much a modern interpretation. I think she did a good job of imagining what Austen’s Lizzie Bennet and Darcy would be like in present day Bushwick. However, they’re not exactly the same characters and the author takes liberties. I liked seeing them as an Afro-American and Black Latinx pair just becoming adults, but your mileage may vary.
Really my main complaint is that I wanted more. Parts of the story felt rushed and I really wanted to linger in some parts of the book and spend more time getting to know the characters. My other complaint is a near constant in P&P retellings. I don’t like how the “Caroline” character gets interpreted as a one dimensional caricature. Overall though, you’ll probably enjoy this if you’re up for YA and temper your Austen retelling expectations as a general rule. Again, check out the audiobook because I think it really elevated the material.