In this age of young-adult problem novels full of alcohol, drugs, date rape, obscenities and piercings, it's startling to come upon a story that's not only cheerfully upbeat but even a little anachronistic. Polly Shulman's "Enthusiasm," her first novel, brims over with unironical wholesomeness. It begins as Ashleigh Rossi, a sophomore at Byzantium High School, prevails upon her best friend and next-door neighbor, Julie Lefkowitz, to share her current obsession with Jane Austen. Ashleigh, a bit of a weirdo, is determined to speak, dress and act as much like an Austen character as possible. The girls decide to crash a dance at Forefield, an exclusive boys' school, dressed like characters out of an Austen novel. But when they arrive without escorts they are stopped at the door.

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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. Jane Austen never had friends like this! Her best friend, Ashleigh, veers wildly from one obsession to the next, dragging Julie along on her crazy schemes.

Ashleigh's current fancy is also Julie's own passion: Jane Austen's great love story Pride and Prejudice. Dressed in a vintage frock and dragging her feet, Julie finds herself sneaking into a dance at an all-boys' prep school with Ashleigh, in search of heroes.

Unfortunately, they both fall for the same one: the handsome and gallant Grandison Parr. Will Julie have to choose between loyalty and love? Or will Ashleigh's embarrassing antics drive him away before Julie gets a chance? From what I remember of freshman year, we will be hard-pressed to find even a single gallant at Byzantium High. I despair of finding a pair of them there! But fortunately, I have discovered the answer.

Clearly Ashleigh had finished the research portion of her fad and moved on to the active stage. Now that she had decided to enact a year-old love story with us as the heroines, I was afraid the results would be mortifying.

Without much hope, I tried to head her off. You always said crushes were for noodleheads. Ashleigh drew herself up to her full height, which I couldn't have done in her position-standing on my bed-since my head would have hit the sloping roof; her figure may be more mature than mine, but she's six inches shorter.

True Love! What girl hasn't dreamed of that? Even the shyest among us longs for a soul mate-someone who will understand our hopes and fears, laugh at our jokes, offer us his coat when the afternoon turns cold, charm our parents, and admire us, flaws and all Yet if Ashleigh cherished a similar dream, I feared for her peace of mind. For is True Love likely to come to a high school sophomore who dresses in a chorus robe and ballet slippers?

No guy will even look at you. As always, my plea fell on deaf ears. As you know, modesty forbids us to reveal the shape of the Lower Limbs. If you do get a boyfriend, he's going to want to see a lot more than just the shape of your Lower Limbs, I argued silently. Fortunately, I reflected, the school year wouldn't start for another week-enough time, I hoped, to make her see reason.

After all, in Pride and Prejudice Miss Elizabeth Bennet addresses her bosom friend, Miss Lucas, by the name of Charlotte, and they are no more affectionately attached than the two of us. But please, my dear friend, allow me to continue. As I said, I believe I have the solution to our puzzle of where to find our heroes.

Ashleigh shook me by the arm, letting her language slip a bit in her impatience. In Pride and Prejudice, where do the younger Bennet girls turn for lively masculine company? Why, to the regiment of soldiers quartered near their home.

Were we to follow their lead, where better to seek suitors than among our neighboring young men in uniform? Forefield, an exclusive boys' prep school, rises above the town of Byzantium both geographically and socially. Its main building, once the mansion of the Forefield family, can be seen from most of the town, including my attic window.

As a little girl I thought it was an enchanted castle, the home of a witch or a princess. I now considered it the home of gawky boys with crests embroidered on their blazer pockets-that is, of snobs, dorks, adders, or most likely snobbish, dorky adders Are you out of your candy wrapper?

What could that possibly have to do with Jane Austen? Can you be blind to the perfection of the plan? If the plan had any, I certainly was blind to it. In my experience, at least, boys who hadn't spent a lot of time around girls were less likely, not more, to behave themselves.

Have a question for Polly? Click here. The Grimm Legacy. The Wells Bequest. The Poe Estate. Order now. The Hardback Edition. The Original Paperback Edition. The French Edition. The Italian Edition. The German Edition. The Hungarian Edition.



And so Julie finds herself with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks, sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys prep school, where they discover some likely candidates. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions.


'Enthusiasm,' by Polly Shulman and 'Twilight,' by Stephenie Meyer

Two best friends experience confusion in love in this nifty little spin on Pride and Prejudice. The scheme works, and Julie falls hard for handsome Parr. Ashleigh, meanwhile, chooses Parr as her fanciful Darcy. 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.

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