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No, not the one Julie and Ashleigh find pinned to their tree. The other one, the Secret Sonnet. Did you notice it? Did you miss it? Email me and let me know. sonnet_AT_
pollyshulman.com
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Ashleigh’s favorite cotillion, #234 from Dancing by Dodworth: “Ten or twelve false noses, with a number on each, are distributed to gentlemen, who wear them.” The ladies draw numbered cards from a bag and dance with the gentlemen wearing the corresponding noses.
 
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Reviews

TimeJulie Lefkowitz is accustomed to public embarrassment: "When your best friend goes around town dressed in armor constructed from cookware, eyes naturally turn your way." Julie's best friend is Ashleigh, and Ashleigh is an enthusiast: she gets obsessed—way, over-the-top obsessed—with things like King Arthur or ballet or juggling. Ashleigh's latest craze is Jane Austen, and in addition to dressing in gowns and talking in period English, she persuades long-suffering Julie to crash a dance at a fancy all-boys private school, hoping to meet a Mr. Darcy, or at least a Mr. Bingley. Winsome and witty, loaded with lunatic junior-high aperçus ("Juliet's not even 14 yet," a young Shakespeare scholar remarks. "He's going to kill himself over an eighth-grader?"), Enthusiasm has the makings of an instant classic. —Lev Grossman, Time Magazine

*“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 bitter experience.” So begins the wry, engaging narrative, in which Julie relates the trials and rewards of her firm friendship with Ashleigh, an Enthusiast. Since elementary school, Ashleigh has taken up one craze after another, from military strategy to ballet, from Harriet the Spy to King Arthur, and dragged her best friend along for companionship. But when Ashleigh begins sophomore year speaking Jane Austen’s prose and crashing an exclusive prep school’s cotillion to dance the Founder’s Quadrille, she commits a double fault: taking ownership of Julie’s favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, and setting her sights on the boy Julie secretly adores. Shulman captures the agony and the irony of Julie’s struggles to find her own way as she navigates the conventions of a culture that, for all its twenty-first century trappings, still leaves young women hoping that the young men of their dreams will recognize and return their unspoken affections. While familiarity with Austen’s world through her books or, more likely, the movies will deepen readers’ appreciation for Shulman’s impressive first novel, it is no means a prerequisite to enjoying this involving and often amusing narrative of friendship, courtship, and (of course) true love. —Carolyn Phelan, Booklist, starred review

Despite the fact that Julie Lefkowitz is often exasperated by her best friend Ashleigh, “an Enthusiast,” the 15-year-old loyally tolerates and often takes part in Ashleigh’s various crazes. Ashleigh’s current interest is the book Pride and Prejudice, and her latest scheme is to crash a formidable boys’ school to attend a dance and find a 21st-century version of Mr. Darcy for herself, as well as a suitable companion for Julie. Dressed in vintage gowns, the girls do manage to slip into the dance and hook up with two agreeable young gentlemen. The problem is that both girls become smitten with the same guy—the shyer, more refined of the two boys. What follows is a sequence of witty exchanges, comic errors and miscommunications that could be taken right out of a Jane Austen novel. When all four characters get cast in a play, opportunities for passionate encounters abound; love triangles emerge and eventually evolve into appropriate romantic pairings. Those familiar with Jane Austen’s writing style and themes will most appreciate the many overt and subtle references to the 19th-century author. If a couple of episodes seem a little over the top (as when [spoiler omitted]), readers caught up in this debut novel’s romantic whimsy and humor will willingly suspend their disbelief.
Publishers Weekly

Julie can't contain the swiftly changing obsessions of Ashleigh, so she goes along with them as best friends do. Ashleigh's latest craze is Jane Austen. She decides to crash the school dance at the exclusive boy's school in town, in an effort to meet Darcy and Bingley. The scheme works, and Julie falls hard for handsome Parr. Ashleigh, meanwhile, chooses Parr as her fanciful Darcy. Julie suffers, but can't see that Parr is equally attracted to her. Comical misunderstandings ensue in this innocent who-will-wind-up-dating-whom farce. Shulman manages to lift the story above standard fare with clever plotting and quirky, often elegant writing that should please the literary crowd while keeping romance lovers engaged. Several cuts above the usual fare. Kirkus

More:
Newsday (interview; PDF)
The New York Times (beware spoilers)

Jane Austen

Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little


 
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