Release Date: Aug. 2, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?
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.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I will read, watch, and devour any version of Pride and Prejudice that exists in this world. If it’s a modern retelling YA version, I’m doubly there. Because the story of Lizzie and Darcy is so dear to my heart, I’m often very nitpicky about the way it’s told, and I haven’t been impressed with most of the YA P&P’s I’ve read in the past. However, Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail was easily my favorite one.
In Epic Fail, Elizabeth Bennet becomes witty 11th grader Elise Benton and Mr. Darcy becomes the son of Hollywood royalty Derek Edwards. They meet on the Bentons' first day at the prestigious Coral Tree Prep School, where Elise's mother is the newly appointed, awkwardly strict principal. Her Coral Tree classmates are all rich and/or famous, while Elise and her sisters Juliana, Layla, and Kaitlyn are not, so they immediately feel like outsiders. While Juliana adapts quickly after meeting the popular and handsome senior Chase Baldwin and his snobby sister Chelsea, Layla will stop at virtually nothing to be in with the in crowd. Now, I could tell you more, but by this point, you should know what's going to happen: someone's pride and someone else's prejudice will stand in the way of a connection.
The aspect that works best about Epic Fail is the way LaZebnik translates the classic characters into their modern counterparts so effortlessly. Elise Benton is an exemplary Lizzie, and she’s the main reason this works so well (as far as modern Ms. Bennets go, Elise is only topped in my mind by Lizzie in the vlog series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries). She is snarky as all get out, hilarious and honest with a biting wit. Lizzie’s sense of humor is so vital to her character, and it often gets watered down or even left out in these retellings. Here, Elise is laugh-out-loud funny. And Derek! Since his parents are two of the biggest movie stars on the planet, his distrust of new people makes perfect sense. He comes across as awkward and uncomfortable, but with a sweetness and understanding just below the surface. In other words, a very fitting Darcy. Juliana and Layla are pitch perfect as Elise’s sisters. I especially like how Juliana and Elise’s closeness contrasts brilliantly with Layla’s isolation, but you never doubt that they care about one another. And, if possible, I dislike Webster Grant more than Wickham. Smarmy bloke.
The other reason I enjoyed Epic Fail more than other retellings I’ve read is because it doesn’t try too hard. Yes, it carries the basic plot of the original work, but it also strays when it needs to in order to make their story work, rather than simply keeping it exactly the same. The themes of the story are more important than recreating every single word or handshake. Elise’s mother can be annoying with being obsessed with marrying off her daughters, since the latter isn’t really something that happens in society nowadays.
Epic Fail was a charming little read that I know I will enjoy again and again.