Thursday, December 1, 2016

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Rating: WARTY!

This book is, quite literally, a waste of paper and Scholastic ought to be ashamed of themselves for wantonly destroying trees like this. It's especially sorry - since the book is an edition intended for schools - that a publisher should set such a sterling example of disregard for the environment. Let me explain.

The book format is 5x8 inches, a total square area of forty square inches per page which is quite staggering when you think about it. The text occupies (if I'm generous with the margins) only 60% of this surface, and almost as bad, it's set at 1.5 line spacing, which means it occupies fifty percent more space than it needs. If you combine these factors, then this 230 plus page book could have been cut down to around one hundred fifty pages. This would not only have helped save trees, it would also have brought the price down by (very roughly) a dollar per book purely from it requiring less paper and shorter print runs (which also saves energy). This cost saving could have been directly passed on to the schools the book was sold to.

None of this is at the author's feet, but it does demonstrate yet one more very good reason why you should never trust Big Publishing&Trade;. Clearly they have no one's best interests at heart, not even their own, evidently! LOL! This is why I will never publish with those people

What I can lay at the author's feet isn't much better I'm sorry to report - especially at this time of year of an author whose last name (depending on how it's pronounced, is reminiscent of Christmas! This book is clearly a clone of Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice (a manga of which I reviewed back in July 2014). It's purportedly some kind of homage, but it's set in the USA in modern times, and it plays rather fast and loose with Austen's premises, so for me it felt more like avarice than ever it was homage.

The focus here is on an elite private girl's school named Longbourn, the sole sorry raison d'ĂȘtre of which appears to be the school senior prom, for which any girl who is anybody is expected to have a date, preferably with one of the wealthy boys from the nearby Pemberley Academy. Despite being brought into the twenty-first century, the book offers no more variety of people (in terms of race, for example) than does Austen's. In Austen's case it was understandable, but in the case of this modernization, it's inexcusable.

I thought the title amusing, but was less pleased with the book despite it not being quite as predictable as I'd feared. Lizzie Bennet was a scholarship student, and Will Darcy a very rich student at the other school. Jane was not her beloved older sister, but her best friend and roommate at the school where nearly all of the students treated her appallingly.

In some ways the translation was done quite well, but in others it was disastrous. The first mistake the author made was to abandon the example set by Jane Austen herself, and write the book in first person instead of third. Clearly the author hasn't the respect she pretends to have for Austen and chose the knee-jerk YA first person default, which made the book annoying at best, and lent a sense of self-importance to main character Lizzie Bennet that the character in Austen's world would never have assumed. It spoiled her.

Another unbelievable episode was George Wickham, who here was rendered a burglar, yet the family from whom he stole failed to press charges? There is no reason or rational explanation given for this. It made zero sense.

I found it amusing that Lizzie was highly antagonistic towards the wealthy, but was so hypocritical that her own sole measure of worth was skin-shallow beauty. That Jane was beautiful seemed to be the only quality she had according to Lizzie - that and being one of Lizzie's meager duo of friends at the school. Never did we learn a thing about Jane's intellect or her academic interests because it's first person you see! Lizzie obviously cares for no one but herself here, and she whines about her predicament constantly. It's a tedious read about a selfish brat who is more spoiled than the people she despises!

Talking of academic interests, and as in all bad high-school stories, the teaching staff was virtually non-existent in this novel, and again as in really bad school stories, bullying was so rife as to be running at parody levels. It was at this ridiculous point that I wanted to quit reading, because it was too silly for words. Two things alone kept me going. The first of these is the idiots who believe you can't review a book after reading only ten or twenty or fifty percent of it. Yes, you can. Deal with it, you critics of critics! If it's so awful that you cannot read it, that's a review right there and it's a reviewer's duty to warn others of such lousy writing. This book is a case in point.

The second reason is that I kept hoping that things would turn around and something would make this story stand out, but the ending was such a deflated affair that it made the novel worse, not better. The only thing that made it stand-out was what a waste of a decent idea it was. I should have quit at twenty percent. Fortunately, because of the wasting of paper, this book was a refreshingly quick read, and that's probably the best thing about it: the author doesn't make you suffer for very long for which I'm grateful!

Chapter 7 is a complete waste of paper. Lizzie spends the weekend at Charles Bingley's ski lodge with his sister, and with Will Darcy and Jane. The author's idea is to pair Lizzie up with Darcy to create another interaction, but it was so poorly executed that it was executed. The farcical premise for this is Lizzie's lack of The Canterbury Tales which she needs for a school assignment. Her plan is to go into town and buy a copy, and so of course Darcy offers to drive her. The thing is though, that it's available free on line! There are no grounds for her going into town and buying the book - except of course that the author was desperate to get the two of them together and could think of no better ruse than this. Badly done, Emma, er, Elizabeth, badly done! You could argue that these students were required to read from a specific edition, but the author never mentioned any such rule, which would have helped her case slightly, but is still a flimsy excuse.

Moving the story into a US private school system simply didn't work. It carried none of the be-all-and-end-all of rigid class marriage which Austen's original did. None of this was about marriage or future prospects, it was simply about bullying and the prom, and really, who the hell cares? The power which was vested in this prom was laughable, even by US standards, and the snottiness of the "upper crust" characters was ridiculous. Yes, I don't doubt for a New York minute that there are people like that, but to claim that every single student in the entire school thoroughly detested Lizzie with a vengeance was absolutely stupid, and totally unrealistic.

Note that the bullying didn't leave off at snide remarks and shunning: there was an active campaign involving physical abuse, which the invisible teachers did nothing to prevent, and which Lizzie openly facilitated by flatly refusing to 'snitch'. I have no idea why this business of not snitching is so widely employed in this ilk of story, but here it made Lizzie look like a spineless loser. Frankly, after reading about half of this, I felt like joining in on the side of the bullies, I disliked Lizzie so much.

You can find the real Jane Austen at if you want to read what she actually wrote. But this book isn't worth your time.