Friday, November 8, 2013

Fall for You & When I'm With You by Cecilia Gray

The Basics:
Fall for You and When I'm With you by Cecilia Gray
Gray Life, LLC
Books 1 and 3 in the Jane Austen Academy series
Published November 6, 2013


Dive into the fabulous, fun lives of six Academy girls as their friendships are tested, torn and ultimately triumph.

Fall for You:
It’s obvious that Dante thinks he’s way too good for Lizzie. And Lizzie knows Dante is a snob with a gift for pressing her buttons. But things are changing fast this year at the Academy. And when Lizzie’s quest to stop those changes blows up in her face, taking her oldest friendship with it, she has nowhere else to turn but to Dante, with his killer blue eyes, his crazy-sexy smile, and his secrets… Secrets Lizzie can’t seem to leave alone, no matter how hard she tries…

When I'm With You:
Kat is destined to be a star and her big break has arrived at last! As the assistant to a celebrity classmate on the set of a feature film, she's going to show everyone she has what it takes. That is, until she discovers pursuing her dreams may mean forfeiting her heart. Unless she can find a way to have both…

* * *

The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is hot guys to flirt with. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And it’s about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…

The Jane Austen Academy series are modern retellings of Jane Austen classics set at a beachside California boarding school.

My Thoughts:

I read these two books back-to-back to get a stronger sense for the series. I love Pride and Prejudice (Fall For You) and have read several adaptations of it, but Northanger Abbey (When I'm With You) was not familiar to me. I was excited to read them because I do love modern adaptations of the classics. 

So, I think that When I'm With You (WIWY) benefited from my lack of familiarity with Northanger Abbey. I found it to be a much stronger book. Because I wasn't distracted by the ways in which the story deviated from the source material, I could enjoy it for what it was: a short and sweet tale about a young woman learning to form and trust her own opinions. The romance with a hot, young actor didn't hurt either! I liked Kat's earnestness, her willingness to dive into work regardless of how glamourous it was or was not. I appreciated her observations about the world, and that things didn't always go her way in the moment. Though there are some too-neatly tied up issues in WIWY, overall, it was a cute teen novel that I really enjoyed reading. 

Now, Fall for You (FFY) establishes the world of Jane Austen Academy and this might be why it wasn't as enjoyable as WIWY. It has to set the foundation for more than just a Pride and Prejudice adaptation, and that leaves less time and space for the story that we (should) all know and love.

Lizzie is a delight - she's got a full range of strengths and flaws (prejudice! pride!) and I would happily have read more about her romance with Dante. The problem is that so much of the Pride and Prejudice story is dropped. Lizzie doesn't have sisters - instead a friend stands in for Jane, but this friend is also the star of her own book in the series (an adaptation of Persuasion), so she can't follow through to the conclusion of Jane's story. 

There were a lot of other elements missing, and the one I missed the most was the mess with Lydia and Wickham. The embarrassment for Lizzie and the emotional turmoil it puts her through were really lacking in this version. I also felt like the relationship with Dante didn't follow the expected ups and downs. It needed to be teased out a little more to get the full dramatic effect. I didn't have that heartmelting moment when Lizzie realizes Darcy is, in fact, a great guy and one she'd like to marry (or date, in the case of Dante). 

What FFY did do well, other than the character of Lizzie and establishing the setting, was working with the themes of pride and prejudice. First and lasting impressions are tested  as Lizzie realizes that she has to look deeper not only when investigating her newspaper articles but when it comes to people as well. Possibly a little unrealistic that such an eager journalist would accept her impressions of people at face value, but it didn't really feel like a mismatch with her personality while I was reading the book.

Bottom Line:

I liked these books, but I don't think they're strong adaptations of Jane Austen's work. The heroines were well developed and engaging. Henry of When I'm With You was pretty dreamy, and this was the superior book.

Each novel also comes with a discussion section at the end, which seems useful to get the target age group (teens) thinking about different components of the book. 

3.5 stars for Fall for You
4 stars for When I'm With You

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