Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler

I got this ARC in New Orleans, and I wasn’t going to read it for a while, but then I saw that it would come out July 12th and decided it made more sense to read the ARC before the book came out than after.
I’m not sure if this will be included on the final publication, but on the top of the cover of the book, it reads:  “In honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility…And because sisters today are just as amazing and aggravating as they were in Jane Austen’s day…” How could I not have picked up a modern day YA Sense and Sensibility?
The story is about two sisters: Gabby and Daphne Rivera. Gabby, the eldest, is best friends with their mother, and Daphne is closer with their (some weekends) father. Their parents are divorced. Gabby is bossy, organized, and intelligent. Daphne is cluttered, free-spirited, and romantic. Gabby seems to always be angry, whereas Daphne is always bouncing around. They are exact opposites. The book follows Gabby’s friendship with her best friend, Mule (short for Samuel). It’s clear Mule is in love with her, but she does not even quite seem capable of love. Around a year or so before her parents split, Gabby had one perfect romantic moment with a boy. But she found out only days later, that the boy tragically died in a car accident. And after her father leaves, and she becomes her mother’s best friend, she becomes rather jaded when it comes to men and love. This is the opposite of her sister, Daphne, who falls in love frequently.
Daphne falls hard for a boy named Luke, after bumping into him in the hallway at school and noticing that he was reading Jane Eyre. She thinks about him all the time, and keeps telling herself how perfect he is for her, without really knowing him. She doesn’t understand why her sister is so against romance because Gabby has never talked to anyone about her first love. And when Daphne talks herself into loving Luke so much, she embarrasses herself in front of him, and an entire party, she falls into a terrible depression. Gabby keeps getting into small arguments with her very attractive tenant, who she blames for the death of her first love.  And by the time the book is over, both girls learn a thing or two about true love, family, forgiveness, strength, and growing up.
On the outside, how could a book like this be that bad? It kind of was though. For starters, I felt like Gabby and Daphne were very one-dimensional. Gabby was the grouch and Daphne was the innocent. I never once thought either of them had much depth. I didn’t learn about Gabby’s past for a long time, and even then I still am not sure it’s enough reason for her to be that perpetually mean. And Daphne was also not that believable. Yes, I can see girls being ridiculously romantic and innocent –I know some– but not to that extent. There were several points where I almost just stopped reading because I feel like both girls were slightly dumbed down. And I think one of the worst things a YA author can do is make his/her characters seem stupid. It’s like she thought about how an adult would do or say something, and she had to re-think how someone not as intelligent would also say it.
Austen was capable of writing two very opposing sisters (one romantic and one sensible) who were not as one-dimensional or as ignorant. In fact my favorite thing about both Elinor and Marianne (from Sense and Sensibility), were that they were so much more than what the book title accredited them: sense and sensibility. They were real women.
I did enjoy the ending of this book; it was very much a happy Austen-type ending. And like Austen’s endings, it was a little abrupt for my taste. So much of this book is about the details, and when it finally came down to something I wanted the details about, it was abrupt. Is it worth going through all the details, and not so good versions of Elinor and Marianne to get to the good but abrupt end? Maybe if you really love Austen, and don’t mind a lot of fluffy/kind of stupid dialogue and not so good character development. I give it a 6/10.


  1. That plot summary really doesn't sound like Sense and Sensibility at all. Pretty much the only thing she got from the original was having one grumpy sister and one romantic sister. That could just as easily have been inspired by The Taming of the Shrew or any number of things. Spinoff fail.

  2. Yeah, it actually reminded me of 10 things I hate about you, at times (which is The Taming of the Shrew). But it did follow the story better than I made it sound. Like they each ended up with the right guy. It just kind of happened differently than I wanted. But, generally, I was kind of disappointed.