Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Epic Fail
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Publisher: Harper Teen, 295 pages
Publication Date: August 2, 2011

From Goodreads:
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.

Pam and Sheri's Review
We decided to read the book at the same time and then come up with a few questions that we would both answer.  

Since this book was clearly a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, what aspects of the retell did you like and didn't like?

Pam: I liked being able to identify which character from Epic Fail was the character from Pride and Prejudice (P&P).  While I love the basic plot from P&P (misunderstandings between characters) Epic Fail was such a close retelling of the plot that it made the book too predictable.
Sheri: I also enjoyed identifying the characters but also thinking about the differences in their personalities or behaviors.  For example, the modern mom is more independent and plays a larger role in this version as compared to original where Dad is the more central character.
Pam: The mom character is something that didn't work for me. 
Sheri: Why not?
Pam: I never understood why this tough high school principal is also star struck.
Sheri: It's because she was enamored with Darren's mom who plays tough feminist roles in the movies.  The problem for me were the other contradictions in her character which were probably driven by LaZebnik's desire to create parallels with the original character in P&P.
Pam: It also felt forced when Darren made the negative comments about her family when he was asking her to the dance. 
Sheri: So while we thought it was a cute retelling, we also think it will probably come across as forced and predictable for people really familiar with the original book. 
Pam: This would be my major complaint about the book. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I hadn't read P&P first.
Sheri: One thing that I really liked was how LaZebnik updated Mr. Wickham's character in the form of Webster Grant.  Having him use social media to exploit the girls was a clever device.
Pam:  I agree.

Was the emphasis on wealth and beauty among the kids at Coral Tree necessary?
Sheri: I was really bothered by the fact that Elise Benton constantly noticed and talked about how beautiful and perfect the kids were at the school and when someone didn't fit the mold they were described in a negative way.
Pam: I didn't mind that and I thought it was necessary because LaZebnik was trying to create a world where the divide between the sisters and the other kids at the school is pretty vast. While Jane Austen focused on social class differences, LaZebnik created pronounced differences regarding physical appearance and lifestyle. 
Sheri: So by doing this she created more of a division between Elise and Derek that I thought made it a little unrealistic that Derek would fall in love with Elise. 
Pam: I don't know, I think he likes Elise for many of the same reasons that Darcy liked Elizabeth (she loves her sisters, she's free spirited, she challenges him, she doesn't fawn all over him like all the other people who are star-struck, etc).

It may sound like we were being critical of the book but we both thought it was a fun lighthearted read and Sheri immeditately started reading The Trouble With Flirting, which is a modern take on Mansfield Park.


  1. I love dual reviews and I love seeing conversations between friends about books because sometimes that reveals the most about the books :).

    I'm with you ladies on being able to identify the characters in any sort of retelling. That's one of the best parts! And especially in modern retellings, it always interests me to see what "modern" means in this new context. I'm sorry, though, that the retelling aspect didn't always lead to the best of scenarios as the plot felt forced and predictable :(.

    Was the book part social satire about the differences in physical appearance and lifestyle if it didn't focus on the same social class polarization? Or is that one of your criticisms - that the book failed to achieve the same level of satire and instead came off as too pointed and unrealistic for the romance and story being told?

    Still it does sound like a fun, lighthearted read, and I do hope you both enjoy the Trouble with Flirting!

    1. I would say that the book failed to achieve the same level of satire. The author tried by having Derek (Darcy) be the son of two famous actors and Elise (Elizabeth) being the daughter of the principal (he was rich and they did not have a lot of money), but to me it just didn't work. It was a huge deal for Darcy to marry someone like Elizabeth Bennett, but for Derek to date Elise, I just didn't see it as that big of a deal.

      It was a fun read, though. ~Pam