Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg. Point (Scholastic), 2011, 227 pages.
Reading Level: Young Adult, ages 12-15
Bottom Line: Prom and Prejudice updates Jane Austen’s classic with a slightly sharper edge that enhances some aspects of the original story but blunts others.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at longbourne Academy must be in want of a prom date.
Prom is a very big deal at Longbourne; worthy of note in the society pages of the New York Times. Lizzie Bennett doesn’t expect to go. She’s a piano prodigy from Hobokenl alsoone of only two scholarship students at Longbourne, a school for insufferable Manhattan snobs who make her first semester miserable. The only saving graces are her piano instructor; Charlotte, the other scholarship student; and Jane, her roommate. Jane’s sweet nature is a match for the young man she loves: Charles Bingley. At the start of the winter term, Charles is back from a semester abroad, along with his best friend, Will Darcy. At a reception for the returning students, Lizzie meets Will and . . .
We know the rest, even though the plot holds a surprise or two. Since the action takes place at school, we miss Mr. Bennett’s sardonic asides and Mrs. Bennett’s impossible machinations. But by sticking as close as it does to the original plot of Pride and Prejudice, with its roots so firmly set in early 19th-century social mores, the characters seem a little anachronistic. Except for two: Wickham (Wick) and Lydia, because cads and twits are all too common these days. Wick is actually more than a cad; he’s a predator, all the creepier for his cultivated persona. (His line to Lizzie about “connections vs. connection” strikes me as classic schmooze and exactly the kind of thing such guys are good at.)
The cruelty Lizzie faces at school hardens that chip on her shoulder and gives the story an edge that’s blunted in the original, with its genteel manners and circumspect behavior. That’s not a bad thing because it helps us understand what the original Bennett girls’ perilous prospects were. But we can understand where Lizzie is coming from better than we understand Darcy. He is gradually revealed as a young man of sterling character, but we don’t see the role models or books or principles that influenced him. His parents, probably, though we don’t meet his father, just his mother. And as Lizzie doesn’t display the same level of wit and candor that the original Elizabeth Bennett does, it’s not as clear what captivates Will about her, unless it’s the way she belts out Rachmaninoff.
None of the main characters are seen as “religious,” so Jane and Charles are sunny and kind, and Darcy is honorable, just because. Same with Wick and Lydia: they are what they are. Lizzie is the one who struggles and changes: “All this time I’d berated Darcy for his pride, but I was the one who’d been blinded by my own stubbornness. What kind of person does that make me?” Happiness awaits them, and the reader who sticks with them, and the book was actually better than I expected because the author takes her source material seriously. She also keeps it very clean–no sex or bad language. But she would probably be the first to tell you not to pass up Pride in favor of Prom. Accept no substitutes!
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/morality value: 4.25
- Artistic value: 3.75
Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Literature, CharacterValues
Girls, realistic fiction, romance, young adult, YA, literature, humility, kindness, high school, Prom and Prejudice, Elizabeth Eulberg, Reading level: young adult ages 12-15, Maturity level: 5 (ages 12-14) and up