Monday, October 11, 2010

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Synopsis: Julia Lefkowski's social life is defined by her enthusiastic (hence the title) best friend Ashleigh.  Ashleigh changes hobbies like she changes her underwear, and each hobby receives a full dose of her enthusiasm.  Best friend Julie is dragged along for each ride.  Next up: Jane Austen.  Ashleigh and Julie are learning to dance, dress, and speak (well at least Ashleigh!) like characters from an Austen novel.  While all dressed up, why not crash the dance at the all boys prep school?  Theatrics, drama, and love flow as consequences of their Austen-y night out.

Review:  It was...somewhere between fine and good.  It wasn't bad, and it wasn't great.  I'm always looking for good clean reads, so from that perspective, I'm happy.  However, from a literary perspective, I was disappointed.  Some moments were perfect!  For example, on Julie's birthday, she's sweet sixteen and never been kissed.  Her hot college freshman neighbor helps her out by letting her practice on him.  More conservative folks may balk at this scene, but I loved it!  Other parts of the book seemed like Shulman got lazy. 

I also have a big problem with the plot.  But first, some background for those who haven't read it.  Julie falls head-over-heels in love at first sight with a guy at the dance.  However, she's not sure if he feels the same way?  He seems interested in someone, but is it her, or Ashleigh?  And if it is Ashleigh, Julie surely shouldn't butt in.  Throughout the school year (yes, I said "year") Julie has these internal struggles all the while receiving love tokens from mystery men, man??? 

Problem #1: Really?  You "love" a guy who may or may not "love" your best friend, and you let all this continue over the course of an entire school year without anyone confronting said guy and asking for some clarification on his feelings?????  This would drive me crazy in real life.  It was grating on my nerves just reading about Julie. 

Maybe I should mention that I'm not a Jane Austen fan.  (Perhaps this kind of plot is par for the Austen novel course?)  I've tried.  Multiple times.  I've never even finished one of her novels.  I used to feel like such a failure... but no longer! Some people love Austen; I, alas, do not.  However, I do quite enjoy Shakespeare, and for that I feel qualified enough to proudly proclaim that I am an English major!  : )


  1. Thank you for this review! I, too get frustrated when the character acts or does something that is just plain dumb!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  2. You ask a complicated question as the girls are in High School and "acting" parts from an Austen novel. Whereas this situation obviously is not in an Austen setting where everything is well planned. The girls would be proper and primed for the season from early ages. In an Austen novel the girl would never ask and of course privacy even between friends and family as in Sense and Sensibility are strictly guarded as are their emotions.

    Austen I am familiar with and adore. I know next to nothing about YA books.


Please leave some comment love.