Published by HarperTeen on August 2nd, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:
- As 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, 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 on campus. 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.
So much about my reading experience with Epic Fail is an epic fail, indeed: I was going to buddy read it with Christina – but wound up reading it weeks ahead of her; I didn’t write a review right away; and mere weeks after the fact, when Christina did finally read it, I couldn’t remember a single bit so we couldn’t really discuss it at all. As such, this review will not be my best. But! I’m happy to say that Epic Fail itself is NOT an epic fail, and I still quite enjoyed it.
So Epic Fail is a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in high school – I suppose you can all see why I was immediately convinced I had to pick this one up. I had already read The Trouble with Flirting, LaZebnik’s retelling of Mansfield Park, so I knew that I could trust her to give the beloved story her unique and fun twist. Indeed, I love the way LaZebnik really brings these stories into modern day, in a way that really gets you thinking about the universal and timeless truths of Austen’s works. It just works – and I loved her take on putting the P&P characters into an elite private school in LA. Much fun to be had.
Indeed, that’s probably the highlight of the book: the level of fun. LaZebnik really captures Elizabeth’s character in Elise and makes her such a funny, snarky MC that you just can’t help but giggle at the many sarcastic outbursts she has. It’s also so easy to immediately ship her and Derek because they are just totally adorable together. That dynamic will never get old to me, and it was nice to see a different form of the class divide between them in this fame-obsessed LA setting.
What also translated well from the original is the family dynamics, and how much Elise cares about her sisters. LaZebnik does a great job of adapting the Bennett family, in a way that can’t not touch my heart just a little. They each have their quirks, some more weird than others, but they were extremely entertaining to read about anyway.
Ultimately, however, the book was missing a level of depth to me that made the story extremely forgettable after finishing. It’s sad, but it comes in many elements – like how even though you see Elise make these snap judgments about people, you know she’s wrong. It’s instantly clear that Derek is a good guy, it’s clear that Webster is a douche – the characters just don’t hold the same questionable motives as they did in the original. Now, this might partly be because I am extremely familiar with Pride and Prejudice, but still: I missed the deeper characterizations. The story was just too simplified for me.
Summing Up:Do you want a light, fluffy read that can possibly elicit some giggles in the vein of a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in high school? Epic Fail will probably fit the bill. However, ultimately, it’s not a book I’m going to praise to the heavens, because I was missing quite some depth. It was entertaining, to be sure, but faded from my memory soon afterwards. In my opinion, LaZebnik’s next Austen retelling, The Trouble with Flirting, was much better. And if you do want a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, I’d much rather shove The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet (and its accompanying webseries) in your face.
GIF it to me straight!