Pride by Ibi Zoboi – Book Review

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟

Overall, I really enjoyed this refreshing take on one of my favourite classics. Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.

Though it would be worth mentioning here I would not strictly class this as a retelling; I think the cover gives a better description, ‘a Pride and Prejudice remix’. It has notes and snippets of the original story, but the beats are different. There’s nothing wrong with that, just worth mentioning if you’re going into this expecting a carbon copy of Austen’s tale adapted because this is not that book. I feel for a book to really be considered a ‘retelling’ there are certain pivotal plot points that have to be included, which in this case they weren’t. All that really features from the original text and the templates of the majority of the characters and the hate to love relationship between Darius & Zuri.

Related image

Zuri Benitez is a really distinctive and strong narrative standpoint, and the integration of her poetry into the story was a really great touch and gave a deeper insight into her character. The rest of the cast of characters are also brilliant in their own right, both those familiar from Meryton and those unique to this book. Zoboi creates an authentic, warm and vibrant atmosphere and setting you can’t help but get caught up in. So much of this book felt like music coming off the page.

Pride does contain a lot of slang, both in narrative and dialogue which generally I don’t like but I feel as though the book would have been missing that note of veracity without it. I’ll admit, I had to consult Urban Dictionary for a lot of it (learned some new words!) because I just don’t use that much slang. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, hell half our language is based off it nowadays, it’s just not how I express myself and so I sought help from Google.

However, I still felt I missed a lot in this book. When Zuri speaks to Warren and other people in her neighbourhood who share her culture she often references ‘a secret language’ those involved in the conversation all understand. This language is never really translated to the reader and as a result, I kind of felt like I was on the outside looking in, in places.

Related imageI recognise I am not really the target audience for this book but at the same time, I feel #ownvoices books like this have a secondary purpose, as well as representing marginalised cultures and minorities. That secondary purpose being to remedy ignorance by bringing attention and educating the reader about these marginalised cultures and their beliefs and points of view. This is a small qualm really, and some things could be inferred but at times it really did feel like I was reading another language as the words being exchanged were clearly loaded with meaning but I just didn’t know what it was.

The characters undergo similar development to those in P&P but my only real problem was with an aspect of Zuri’s development. Though I know prejudice is a huge aspect of this novels makeup I found Zuri more than a little close-minded throughout the book and it’s not a trait she entirely lets go of. From her opinion to her changing neighbourhood – which, fair enough I understand having seen my own city change dramatically over past years, but I’m a firm believer places shouldn’t be defined as belonging to one ethnicity or one culture, there should just be places that we, the only race on Earth, the human race, are free to move freely between and live in without being made to feel or believe we have no right to be and I mean anybody when I say that, though I’m well aware it only goes one way at the moment and that sucks – to her constant perpetuation of what she thought Darius ought to be like because he’s black, and her complete refusal to try and get to know people with a different background to her own.

It just sort of grated on what I felt Austen wanted to represent in Elizabeth Bennett who, for her time, was forward thinking and nonconformist woman, made more brilliant for the fact she used her intelligence and other people’s prejudices and preconceptions to get away with it.

Zuri seems closer to acceptance at the end of the novel and I suppose these frustrations are a sign Zoboi wrote her book well as, though I understand their equivalents in the original text, the chronological difference prevents me from really feeling anything for the struggles of the Bennett sisters, where the Bentitez sisters’ struggles feel immediate and relevant to me.

A great read for Afro-Latinx women wanting to see themselves represented by an ingenuitive female author or anyone wanting to try something new and experience a culture I know I personally haven’t been able to before.

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’

 

Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks – Book Review

Marks, S - Phi Alpha PiI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 .75

I did enjoy the book, I just felt like it could have been executed better.

The premise of this book is a Pride and Prejudice retelling in a modern American setting of sororities and fraternities. I adore Pride and Prejudice, it is one of my all-time favourite novels so when I first read the synopsis I was intrigued for several reasons. Firstly, P&P is very quintessentially British as are the characters, and thought seeing American interpretations would be interesting and (due to limited knowledge in the area and a few American movies) my idea of sororities centres a great deal around debutantes and socialites and I actually thought to apply the P&P story to that sounded all kinds of awesome and original.

Well, my idea was a little off but what I got was pretty awesome and original too! The bare bones of the original story are present and fleshed out with a great summer, feel-good romance that most P&P fans (with an open mind) can enjoy. I liked how Lizbeth was translated to modern day, complete with feminist bad-assery, and how other key characters from the original story do too – Wickham a fraudster and identity thief? Inspired! Darcy, explained as an introvert with social anxiety? So clever!

There is enough of the original in there to make it as un-put-downable as the original for me but, since it is a retelling I have to compare it to the original.

Whilst I have nothing against adaption for the purpose of modernisation there are almost always some aspects of classics that are important to maintain unless they’re changed in a specific way. I also have a thing about retellings containing the original material as a piece of media in the book, as in, in this book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book that exists. This creates a weird irony from the outset of any novel as the events mirror the book which is either addressed by a) referring to it constantly which is annoying and strange or b) mentioning it once and then inexplicably never again. Phi Alpha Pi uses the latter which is the lesser of two evils but in all honestly I wish they just wouldn’t at all. And that’s not specific to this book, but for all classic retellings. Just leave it out. (admittedly, Austenland by Shannon Hale actually handles it surprisingly well but I’d say it’s an exception).

In Phi Alpha Pi the Bennett sisters aren’t really sisters (well, they’re sorority sisters) which would be fine except they all have their own additional families and siblings that I felt were unnecessary plot devices that could have been substituted by actual P&P characters. But I also felt that removing the blood bond also jeopardizes some of the actual plot points. Lydia’s life choices, for example, I don’t doubt sorority sisters are close but Lizbeth’s constant judgment and commentary of the other sisters’ actions especially Lydia’s just feels rude and like overstepping. Opinions like that are best asked for and when it’s your family those concerns are expected and you’re entitled to shove them in a person’s face. Just some gal you’ve known for a few years at school? Um, rude? What’s it to you? Imean, it wasn’t a huge deal but it’s similar with Dr Bennett (the Mr Bennett archetype). His advice and counsel means more as Lizzy’s father, not her teacher.

The second is Lizzy’s social standing. Lizzy’s stalwart and satirical resolve against a marriage based on financial advantage means that much more when she is set to inherit nothing because it means she is quite literally happy to choose to be placed at a disadvantage before she jeopardises her beliefs and marry for money. Making her wealthy takes something away from that, even if I suppose it accentuates she’s really choosing Darcy for love since she doesn’t need his money?

There’s the two pivotal scenes in Darcy and Lizzy’ relationship: the slight and the proposal. I found the flip in the severity of these two scenes very amusing – the slight is actually not very much of a slight at all. Barely even a passing comment – ‘Not my type’ and a general (and kind of accurate) comment on people who aren’t Lizzy is so not on par with ‘tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ and an unfounded assumption coupled with the belief his company is a gift. Where, by comparison, “You are an aggressive, unconnected nobody who holds everyone up to ridiculously high expectations and acts like you’re entitled to everyone’s respect.” – but please love me back, is pretty darn brutal. I actually found this quite funny – in fact, I may have said “Ooooooh, snap” out loud.

The writing style was actually pretty good but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is Marks’ constant remarking on what people are wearing, to the point that I dedicated a highlighter colour to every time this happened in the exact same format/phrasing on my kindle. The grand total? 20 and it’s not a long book. Unless there was something symbolic about Darcy’s penchant for Chucks that I missed.

I liked it, it was a fun read but I’m not likely to read it again, to be honest. It was a fun way to relive P&P in a new way for a weekend but in terms of retellings/adaptions, it’s not the best but also not the worst.

Can anyone recommend a P&P retelling with the setting of debutantes by any chance? I need to read that book.