Mar 20, 2015

Review: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald


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Title: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
Author: Abby McDonald
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Paperback, 321 Pages
Published April 2013
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Summary: Hallie and Grace Weston have never exactly seen life eye to eye. So when their father dies and leaves everything to his new wife, forcing the girls to pack up and leave San Francisco for a relative’s house in shiny Beverly Hills, the two sisters take to their changing lot in typically different styles. Shy, responsible Grace manages to make friends with an upbeat, enterprising girl named Palmer but still yearns for her old life — and the maybe-almost-crush she left behind. Meanwhile, drama queen Hallie is throwing herself headlong into life — and love — in L.A., spending every second with gorgeous musician Dakota and warding off the attention of brooding vet Brandon. But is Hallie blinded by the stars in her eyes? And is Grace doomed to forever hug the sidelines?
I received an old ARC copy of this through a giveaway on Twitter, and I was really excited to start it because I love re-tellings of stories, and this just seemed like an interesting story in general. For those who don't already know, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood is a modern re-telling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. 

I'm going to start off by embarrassing myself and admitting that I've never actually read Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. (Terrible of me since I want to be a future English major, I know. But it's true.) However, I did some research on the synopsis of the story and I can say with [semi] confidence that the plot points do match up, even if just a little bit. The major theme is still the same.

So coming away from Sense and Sensibility a little bit, I'm going to talk about this book itself. I enjoyed reading it and it was a nice light read in between some darker, more dystopian ones that I've been into lately. Hallie and Grace just lost their father for the second time (the first time being when he upped and left them for a snobby rich wife and a snobby rich life), this time due to a heart attack out of the blue. Grace and Hallie have two totally different personalities and therefore handle this in two totally different ways: Hallie has a meltdown, and Grace is forced to act as the reasonable adult since her artistic, crazy-brained mother is still reeling from being left behind in the first place.

To make matters worse, their evil step-mother may seem like she feels bad that the girls lost their father, but she definitely has an interesting way of showing it - selling the house the two of them and their mother have lived in for years.

(Let this be a life lesson: never leave everything in one guardian's name. Things may get a bit hairy.)

With no money and nowhere else to go, the girls and their mother pack up and head to L.A. to go live with a rich distant cousin. Hallie makes the best of the situation by throwing herself into a promising acting career...but Grace isn't so satisfied with her new home.

Before I get on to what I liked about the book, I just have to point out two things that my inner Grammar Nazi couldn't shake.

First, there were, commas in the, most random places and, did not make, any sense. What baffles me about this is that Abby McDonald isn't a new author and she would definitely have enough writing experience (based on her other works that I've loved) to fix that. So why didn't she?

Second, I have never in the history of any book I've ever read seen "okay" in dialogue spelled as "OK." And it bothered me sooooo much. "Are you OK?" A character would ask. And my inner Grammar Nazi would start seeing red.

Other than those grammatical things that I tried to ignore and just couldn't shake, this was a good book. A nice quick, light read about two teen girls struggling to adjust to life in a new, shiny city while also dealing with new (and old) family members and getting over the loss of the father that was once so very dear to them. I enjoyed the story (and even enjoyed the boys ;), wink wink), but some of the plot twists were figured out way before we even reached that point, which was a bit disappointing.

I honestly can't think of what else to say about this book. It was just nice. That's all I can really say about it, honestly. I definitely enjoyed the drastic difference between the two sisters, Grace and Hallie (and the book is told in their alternating points of view) - Grace being calm and level-headed and shy, while Hallie is vibrant and outspoken and super, super dramatic.

The postscript was nice, too. It's satisfying to see what happens to the characters after the story closes, and you don't see those at the end of many books anymore. But that definitely satisfied my inner reader who's always loaded down with questions after the final chapter!

All in all, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood was a quick, refreshing read that I'm glad I picked up. Special thanks to Lindsay for sending me an old ARC copy, and shoutout to Abby McDonald for another good book!

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