Hello, and welcome to my new home in the blogosphere. If you have found me because you are a reader of Not Just for Kids, or because you are interested in the topic (or, perhaps, lost,) thanks for stopping by.
This blog has its roots in the fact that in 11 months’ time I will be standing before the Massachusetts region of the Jane Austen Society of North America, delivering a talk. The general theme of my talk will be about the trend towards Jane Austen adaptations in current Young Adult literature. I have been a childrens librarian for over ten years now, but four years ago my scope of attention widened to include young adult literature as well. In those four years I have seen titles such as Prom and Prejudice, Prada and Prejudice and Sass and Serendipity, pass before my eyes. I couldn’t help but notice them, being a JASNA life member.
It’s no secret that the number of Austen adaptations, sequels, and mash-ups has mushroomed to nuclear proportions in the past 15-20 years. So why should a few more teen titles catch my eye? They caught my eye and have given me food for thought for the simple reason that I don’t think YA readers are necessarily an obvious audience for Austen adaptations. It makes sense to write prequels and sequels and alternate reality regencies for the adult Austen fan base; the readers who already know her and love her and simply cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that six novels and a handful of letters is IT. We create more Austen to fill the gap of not-enough-Austen. Young adult readers, on the other hand, are at the stage where they might just be discovering Austen, and reading the words “It is a truth universally acknowledged” for the very first time. Surely, if one wants to share a love of Austen with a young reader, wouldn’t it simply make sense to give them…. you know….actual Austen?
Still, there is something to be said about being inspired by a master. Zadie Smith basically reworked Howards End, and nobody called her out on it. So how are these books enriching young adult literature? Are they substantial enough to stand on their own without the helping hand provided by the original. Will they actually introduce readers to Jane Austen? And is anyone writer enough to put Pride and Prejudice aside and tackle Mansfield Park?
I intend to use this blog as a sort of open notebook to help me keep track of the books I am reading, ideas I am developing, theories I’m trashing–and maybe even indulge in some panic–as I prepare for my talk. Comments are always appreciated, and I would love readers who know of teen Austen adaptations to point me in their general direction. Here is my reading list so far:
- Enthusiasm (Polly Shulman)
- Prom and Prejudice (Elizabeth Eulberg)
- The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love (Rosie Rushton)
- Prada and Prejudice (MandyHubbard)
- Cassandra’s Sister (Veronica Bennett)–Cheeky title, by the way!
- Pies and Prejudice (Heather Vogel Frederick)
- I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend (Cora Harrison)
- Epic Fail (Clair LaZebnik)
- Sass and Serendipity (Jennifer Ziegler)
- The Jane Austen Diaries (Jenni James)
- Jane Austen in the 21st Century (Rosie Rushton)
- Jane Austen: a Life Revealed (Catherine Reef)
The last title is not an adaptation, but an actual biography. However, when it was published last year, it claimed to be the first biography about Austen written specifically for young adults. All those adaptations, and then someone finally decided to write about Austen herself. For reals. Interesting.