Maybe Not So Ardently

Spies and Prejudice - Talia Vance

This may have been an Inception moment. Because it sure feels like I just read a book about the movie in Tammara Webber's book about an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in high school except this had a side serving of Veronica Mars and no Reid Alexander in sight (boo!).

 

Instead we have Strawberry Fields (don't worry she was just mostly Berry in this book), a high school junior who helps out in her dad's Private Investigation firm following cheating husbands and boyfriends alike. She was on a stakeout with her friend, Jane Mary Chris, when they run into the new guys in school Ryan (Mr. Bingsley) and Tanner (Mr. Darcy). Pride and Prejudice shenanigans ensue interspersed with Berry running into a trail of clues that may lead to the ever elusive truth about her mother's death.

 

I'm pretty sure modern adaptation of anything is a kiss of death on any book. Especially when you announce it with the title. This would've been an easier sell if it didn't. It's almost like this was asking for some hurt. I'm not a hard core Jane Austen fan but however brilliant you may "adapt" the scene, it will always come sub-par to the original.

 

Which is a pity because despite the story's predictability, it was a pretty entertaining read... When Berry and Tanner weren't being annoying asshats to each other. True, it does become distracting when while the story is unfolding, I'm playing connect the dots with P&P figuring out who's who and what scene is a mirror of what, but there was enough original ideas mixed in to keep me interested. The dialogue was believable, the humor wasn't forced (courtesy of Jason, the gay friend) and the cheese was kept to the barest minimum (Pemberley? Really?).

 

Midway through, the P&P parallels took a back seat for the spy stuff. I did like that it didn't take the predictable route with regards to the case but it did get a little confusing with the addition of Drew in the mix who felt like a forced Mr. Wickham. There were a lot of wtfs in the mystery of Berry's mother's death particularly her dad's actions. Though I found it funny that a recurring witness was getting paid tens and thousands of dollars by the big players when she willingly spilled to Berry for the price of a makeover and 80 dollars worth of moisturizers.

 

I used to like heroines like Berry. My 15-year old self would read her as a strong and independent girl. And having issues that damaged her enough to push people away by hitting or pepper spraying them gives her depth. I used to be charmed when the brooding, hot guy sweeps her off her feet, fixing all her damaged parts little by little, smirk by smirk, kiss by kiss.

 

Thirty-something me would just see her as a bitch acting out on all her drama. What happened to just being nice? The implausibility of a guy like Tanner adds salt to injury. We all know guys won't understand you at first sight, and try to fix you and fall in love with you when you act out on your crazy because you took him to mini-golf and laser tag. That's bullcrap. There's a romantic somewhere in the dark depths of my soul (really, there is) but I refuse to be fed this trope anymore than I already swallowed in my foolish youth.

 

I would probably give this a higher rating if the P&P reference was kept in the blurb and out of the title. And recommend to mature readers of this genre who may have some hankering for a novelized CW teen drama.

 

Copy provided by Egmont USA via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased, honest review.