Monday, January 28, 2013

Amanda Monday: Emmalee

Emmalee Bradford thinks she’s an expert at matchmaking, and she won’t rest until all her friends are as happy as she is. Especially Hannah, the girl she’s decided to make popular. Everyone loves Emmalee's advice--everyone, that is, except her annoying neighbor Chase Anderson, who has taken it upon himself to "fix" her.

This modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma is the hilarious journey of a girl who believes she knows all about love. But when it comes to recognizing the perfect guy for her, Emmalee is absolutely clueless.

I have been a fan of all the Jane Austen Diaries books written by Jenni James.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, they are retellings of Jane Austen's famous books set in modern day Farmington, New Mexico.  I toyed with the idea of blogging about all four books of the series (Emmalee being #4), but after finishing the book, I decided to just focus on it, as Emmalee has many examples of the best and not-so-best of all the books.

Emmalee is certainly not an original book.  I don't think it was ever meant to be.  It is simply a fun retelling of Austen's classic Emma.  What makes it a fun read is seeing how the 19th century Austen problems translate into modern-day fiction.  Since Austen's conflicts were, in many ways, timeless, I think James did a good job of taking  the story and moving it into the future.  Instead of wealthy heiress Emma of Hartford, you have super popular and wealthy Emmalee Bradford, top of the senior class social ladder.  Is she nice?  Yes.  Is she flawed?  She is a pretty good blend of self-absorbed and giving, entitled and humble.  I actually enjoyed her character very much.  Though an older reader might wince a few times at the rather juvenile train of thought she possesses, she definitely has spunk and charisma, and is a heroine that will capture the readers' heart.

My biggest problem with the book is all of the supporting characters.  With the exception of her friend Hannah, they are all very harsh and quick to judge our heroine.  I kept wanting to yell at her parents, friends, and especially her love interest Chase (our modern Mr. Knightley), "Good grief! She's only 18!  Ease up, already!"  It made it hard for me to warm up to some of the other characters, and (maybe this is just the bratty part of me coming out), I never felt like what she did warranted the sometimes over-the-top  punishments doled out by her parents.  As a result, I felt annoyed when I think I should have been feeling happy and satisfied.  

But, in spite of the fact that I spent half the book irritated, I couldn't put it down.  I guess it has some of the same magnetism as Twilight and other such young-adult books.  "You hate it but have to finish it" syndrome.  So while a part of me wants to give it two stars for having some fairly contrived characters, I the other part of me that had to stay up late to finish it says that it justly deserves three stars.  

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