Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review: Enthusiasm

A Fair Trade Book

(What I read, and have for sale with a Storybook Doll at the time of writing, is the hardcover edition. Amazon doesn't want to show that image with the book; it's the same image the publisher used for the audiobook-on-CD version:


Title: Enthusiasm

Author: Polly Shulman

Date: 2006

Publisher: Penguin / Putnam

ISBN: 0-399-24389-5

Length: 198 pages

Quote: “There is little more likely to irritate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast.”

Narrator Julie is the next-door neighbor and best friend of Ashleigh, the Enthusiast. Both of them are book lovers who have recently discovered the novels of Jane Austen. Julie enjoyed Pride and Prejudice; Ashleigh wants to wear long skirts and speak early nineteenth century English. “My dear Miss Lefkowitz,” she hails Julie before tenth grade classes begin, “we will be hard pressed to find even a single gallant at Byzantium High…fortunately, I have discovered the answer.”  

Julie and Ashleigh have always scorned boy-crazy girls, but who doesn’t long for “a soul mate…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,” as Julie puts it…and both girls just happen to have seen boys who at least look like that sort of romantic “hero” material, at the local boys-only school. All they need to do is get themselves invited to participate in a few of the boys’ social events…and, this being a romantic comedy for teenagers, that’s easily accomplished.

Well before Julie and tenth-grade-soulmate Parr find themselves speaking in a sonnet (instead of the usual awestruck adolescent loss-for-words routine), readers may notice that this novel is not exactly meant to be realistic. Probably they won’t mind. Once you’ve accepted teenaged girls whose obsession is Jane Austen, and teenaged boys who catch the said girls trying to crash a school party and just happen to have tickets and also just happen to be the boys the said girls were hoping to meet, why not accept a Teen Romance hero whose actual name is supposed to be “Grandison Parr”? If you stop and think, you know that “Grandison Parr” is about as likely as a tenth grade hormone attraction leading to a “soulmate” relationship…but romance is a fantasy genre anyway.

Enthusiasm is obviously inspired by Pride and Prejudice, but it’s not merely a remake. Within the narrow limits of the romantic comedy genre, it has its own plot. Romantics who are interested in reading about a budding friendship that builds up to sweet, chaste kisses should enjoy this one. Teenaged boys who are interested in reading about what nice, book-loving teenaged girls like and laugh at could do worse than read Enthusiasm, too. 

To buy it as an ordinary Fair Trade Book, send $5 per book + $5 per package (you could probably get four copies into a package for a total of $25) to either address at the very bottom of the screen, and we'll send $1 per copy to Shulman or a charity of her choice. To buy the very special, harshly used edition I bought cheap, read, and dressed a doll to match, send $20 (dolls don't fit into packages with additional books). To see the pattern for the doll-size cross-the-back evening gown, watch this space; it will eventually be uploaded.