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Review: Epic Fail

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik was released in the U.S. on August 2, 2011 in paperback and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Published by HarperTeen, the print edition is 304 pages.

Epic Fail is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

Goodreads description:

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

Derek Edwards is handsome, rich, arrogant and moody. Everyone wants to be near him. Everyone would kill to be him. Whatever he wants, he gets. With just one exception. Elise Benton.

Elise refuses to be just another star-struck groupie, hanging on his every word, catering to his every need. This full-of-himself son of a Hollywood celebrity is definitely not worthy of her attention.

Besides, she’d much rather spend time with Webster Grant. He’s cute, nice, friendly and humble. In a school filled with the rich, privileged and entitled, Webster just might be the only person she can relate to. He really couldn’t be more perfect.

But first impressions can often be misleading. And if she isn’t careful, Elise might just let her pride and prejudice blind her to the truth and prevent her from finding out who is truly worth fighting for.

***

While the main character, Elise Benton, may have felt like everything she did was an epic fail, this book is anything but. From start to finish, Epic Fail is charming, fun and hugely entertaining. And with such a quick pace, this is an easy one-sit-read.

Elise is uprooted from her quiet hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts when her mother takes a job as principal at Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles where the wealthy send their children. Moving across the country was difficult enough, but having to attend the same school where her mother works borders on cruelty.

Surrounded by the children of celebrity, Elise tries to keep a low profile. But when her sister, Juliana, meets the handsome and outgoing Chase Baldwin, best friend to Derek Edwards, the son of one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses, staying out of the spotlight is no longer an option.

With the entire school practically bowing down to him, moods and all, Elise wants nothing to do with him. Just because he is rich, popular and handsome doesn’t make him a good person. And if he thinks she’ll fall in line with the rest of the school, he’s wrong.

So when she meets Webster Grant, who seems to be everything that Derek isn’t – nice, funny and down-to-earth – she is quick to befriend him. Even when she’s warned that hanging out with Webster will destroy her social status.

But Elise soon learns that appearances can be deceiving and that fame and money don’t always make someone the bad guy, it’s sometimes the lack of them than does.

This modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice is Author Claire LaZebnik’s debut young adult novel. Not only did the author bring the story into the present, she changed the setting to the Los Angeles Westside, home to Hollywood’s elite.

While this must have been no easy task, she accomplished this brilliantly. The Los Angeles backdrop was different enough to make this story not feel like a carbon copy of the original, and she incorporated the ideas from the classic into her story in a way that felt natural and not forced. Even though this is based on Jane Austen’s classic work, the story and characters are very much this author’s creation and are wonderful in their own right.

And for readers who haven’t read Austen’s book, they won’t feel at a loss while reading Epic Fail. While the ideas are taken from the original as a basis for this book, their usage is subtle. And without knowing in advance that this story is a modern adaptation of the classic, a comparison might not be made.

Elise Benton and her family are outsiders to this world where the students at Coral Tree Prep have the money and the power, not the teachers. And where all it would take is just one call to their parents to cost Elise’s mother her job…or worse.

Elise is a strong-willed, opinionated, but incredibly likable main character. While at first she lets her preconceived notions get in the way of seeing Derek Edwards for who he really is, she isn’t so stubborn that she is unwilling to change her mind. And Derek is her perfect match. He is just as judgmental and hard-headed as she is, and makes just as many mistakes along the way.

With an eclectic group of secondary characters, from Elise’s good-hearted older sister Jules, to her quirky, star-struck and overprotective mother, Epic Fail is an absolutely delightful, fast-paced and thoroughly engaging contemporary young adult novel.

Reviewer gives this book…

On a personal note:

Epic Fail was such a perfect way to spend a few hours. It was fun and light and a great distraction. And it was just so easy to get caught up in this modern take on a classic.

For someone who has almost zero memory of Pride and Prejudice I’m sure I missed several of the parallels, but it really wasn’t needed for me to totally devour this book.

I am not the biggest fan of Victorian Era books. Though I have an appreciation for them, they just aren’t stories that I connect with. But I am a fan of contemporary novels, so when I heard that this book took the ideas from the classic and revamped them into a style that I’d enjoy, I was excited to read it.

From the book’s description I expected this to be flirty and fun, with a great dynamic between the two main characters and it was exactly that. And it was also a super quick read, which I loved.

Looking back I can see some places where it mirrored the original, but it wasn’t so obvious that I felt like I was hearing the same story all over again.

I also loved how the author created most of her characters with the same initials as those in the original book. Even their names had a certain feel to them that felt similar to the original characters. Granted, I did have to look a few up as I didn’t remember all the characters’ names from Pride and Prejudice.

I’m sure this will earn a few grumbles from die-hard Jane Austen fans, but I liked this book way more than I did the classic. I would totally re-read this, where one read of P&P was enough for me. Although, reading Epic Fail may have sparked my interest enough to give it another go.

I loved what the author did with Elise’s family, who did not fit in with the Los Angeles Westside lifestyle at all. They were odd and funny, embarrassing and annoying, but they felt like a real family – the overprotective mother and father, the good sister, the sister with a good head on her shoulders, the overly dramatic bratty sister and the sweet kid sister. I just kept thinking, “Poor Elise!” every time she encountered her mother at school or someone stopped by the house.

Derek and Elise made for two great main characters. I loved going through the journey with them as they both set aside their pride and Elise let go of her prejudice and headed toward a happily ever after ending.

Favorite passage:

I got lost in him, and it was the kind of lost that’s exactly like being found.

***

For a long look inside, courtesy of HarperTeen, CLICK HERE.

This review is based on a finished copy of the book I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and for a potential interview with the author.

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