Saturday, September 29, 2007

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast. I speak from better experience. My best friend and next-door neighbor, Ashleigh Marie Rossi, is an Enthusiast."

Ashleigh goes all out for whatever happens to capture her imagination at the moment, be it candy making, a certain band, or literature. Then she co-opts Julie's love of Jane Austin and this time she may have gone too far. Julie is justifiably worried that Ashleigh's enthusiasm will taint her own love of Jane Austin. Sure her love is understated and much more personal, but she wants to maintain it just the same. She's worried that Ashleigh's insistence to no longer wear pants (it's not proper to show off your lower limbs), talk like she's in an Austin novel, and to crash the private boys school fall dance might just put her over the edge this time.

Julie is our "Elizabeth," our heroine who lusts after her Mr. Darcy and stays silent on her true feelings in her attempt to protect others. Ashleigh is surely one of her silly younger sisters, I can't imagine who else she would be modeled after. As one might expect, there were plenty of mixed signals, poor communication, and of course love triangles that are happily resolved by the end of the book.

Some of the characters irked me a bit. I found Julie's father and step-mother irritating, but I can forgive them because they were meant to be. On the other hand, Ashleigh just about drove me insane. Her inability to accept that things were not as she thought they were...even when she was told repeatedly that they weren't was frustrating to say the least. As fun as she was spurring them on to try new things, her inability to listen and accept what people tell her was incredibly annoying. I know people like that in real life and I don't like them. It was hard for me to accept that Julie wouldn't have a major melt down and freak out on her. I kept waiting and hoping even though I knew it would go against Julie's quiet internal struggle type character.

It was also a little frustrating waiting around for the characters to figure out what you've known from the beginning of the book. I wonder though if the girls who aren't as familiar with Jane Austin would recognize the patterns that the author used. It might not be as obvious to them as to someone who's already read everything Austin has written. Regardless, it was still nice to read along and be rewarded when the girls figure out who their "Mr. Darcys" actually are. A cute, fun read, that will appeal to girls looking for a light romance.

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