“It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a teen girl on a class trip to England should be having the time of her life.”- Chapter 1.
This 2009 young adult teenager book by Mandy Hubbard (her first novel) was a pithy two hours maximum read, and yet I was still happily swept up in the designer, fluffy, sugar-filled world of American highschool. Be warned with this one, if you aren’t young and socially conscious then this should be read in at least that mindset.
Fifteen year old Callie, our klutzy first person protagonist, wishes to impress her US classmates while on an overseas trip to London. And how better to do that? Prada shoes. Clumsily falling over in overpriced six inch red pump heels, Callie then wakes up in 1815, in a forest, knowing no one and still wearing jeans and the scarlet shoes. She manages to “con” her way into a large mansion, pretending to be an expected American cousin called “Rebecca”. And then, the love story begins.
I love to read any romance, really, so this had me smiling throughout. It isn’t particularly original, and I wouldn’t give it any ground breaking status, but I would happily encourage a younger reader to give it a try. Utilising plot devices such as letters and irony, it’s like a modernized, simplified younger Jane Austen.
It’s a cutesy easy book to submerge yourself in. I enjoyed reading it. Somewhere between The Princess Diaries (Meg Cabot) and Confessions of a Shoe Addict (Beth Harbison) it’s chick literature for youth at its finest. While it doesn’t necessarily lead on from Pride and Prejudice (nor mention our beloved characters) the relationship between Callie and Alex (the book’s arrogant but misunderstood love interest) mirrors Lizzy and Darcy’s perfectly. There also seem to be a couple of head-nods to Northanger Abbey.
While some of the book is unrealistic (e.g. who, waking up in a random place, notices that there are more stars in the sky than yesterday?!) there are some gorgeous moments and a really lovely relationship between Callie/Rebecca and Emily. Watching Callie help Emily through the struggles of an arranged marriage, while not understanding the class of the time, is amusing. We see 19th century manners thrust against 21st Century behaviour- and it isn’t always pretty.
A great line from the book that really sums up the entire plot is about one of the balls she is attending as Rebecca: “I don’t know these dances! And as soon as the next dance starts, I’m going to be standing here alone while Emily dashes off to dance with Trent. It’s like my worst nightmare come to life. Turns out 1815 isn’t so different from the twenty-first century, because this is exactly what would happen if I were back home.”
What can I say? It’s cute. I can see it easily being made into a successful tv miniseries for tweens. Particularly because of the nice twist at the end (I’m not telling!) and the opportunity to compare the life of younger women today and with the Regency era.
One criticism I do have is with the writing style. In under 240 pages there are 30 something chapters. And almost every chapter is left on a cliffhanger, which is then resolved within the first paragraph of the next chapter. That’s a little bit more tension than I need in a book- although maybe it suits most readers of today? What do you think? I don’t read a lot of young adult fiction anymore, so maybe that’s just normal.
Ed.- Again, for the curious, I picked this book up for $4.95 from Basement Books Central, Sydney. It had a smallish rip on the back cover but it doesn’t bother me really. If you’re ever around there and want cheap books, I very much recommend going, it’s an absolute treasure trove.