REVIEW: The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love by Rosie Rushton

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Review by Allison T.

Dear Jane,

R U THERE? R U LISTENING? GR8! Now, will you just toddle on over to Mount Olympus and borrow a few teeny-tiny thunderbolts from Jove and zip them off post-haste in the direction of The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love, by Rosie Rushton?

O migod, life is so harsh for the Dashwood girls! I mean, their dad left their mum to marry this bimbo, Pandora, with silicone boobs and a very demanding aura. Ellie, the eldest sister, still hasn’t had a real romance at the incredibly advanced age of seventeen and a few months, while Abby, blessed with bigger boobs than her elder sister, goes through boyfriends at the rate of one every few weeks, and Georgie seems to be a hopeless tomboy at thirteen. Then Dad dies & the mazzuma is all gone and the girls and their mother are forced to go live in a little cottage in Norfolk–no all-night raves, no clubs, no department stores!–and attend a state school (public school for Americans). Way harsh! Then Abby meets this cute drummer, Nick, but although she likes him at first, she doesn’t like like him, if U know what I mean, and then she meets this XSively cool guy, Hunter, who seems to have a lot of money although his dad is being investigated for fraud but she doesn’t care about that because she really like likes him, and then he wants her to, you know, prove it and then, well…

And Ellie really like likes her horrible stepmother’s nephew, Blake, who is a sensitive guy with floppy bangs and really cute sneakers who wants to be an artist, but his dad wants him to be an international lawyer instead and won’t pay for art school, and even though Ellie thinks that Blake like likes her too, everyone says that he is an item with this other girl, Lucy (a new four-letter word, thinks Ellie), and so she, Ellie, is really really sad and she cries a lot. Abby cries a lot too. (A few tears came to my eyes, too, but not for the same reasons.)
And Georgie–well, I’ll stop here except to note that Georgie gets asked out–not out out, just out–by this nice boy with whom she cleans boats at the local yacht club. (Thank God! A normal child.)

It’s not that The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love is a bad read exactly; Rushton apparently specializes in teen fiction and has many titles to her credit and the book is workmanlike enough, though I’m not sure what a teenager who either loved S&S or who knew nothing about it would make of it. (Hmm, I guess that takes care of the whole universe of teen readers, doesn’t it? But even though I own a teen and a pre-teen myself, I can’t see either of them digging this work. And it’s terribly British with its “L-plates” and “trainers”–will it play at Peoria High?) But the book focuses solely on S&S’ basic plot elements, and misses the point that both Elinor and Marianne mature and achieve a better balance between sense and sensibility as a result of their travails. Here it’s all about whether or not the girls will get the guys, and although all three (and mum!) have matured enough at the end not to need to revisit their beloved old home, that’s not quite the same thing.

The book has a cool font and bright pink on the cover, so that you know what age and gender group it targets, and the kids text message each other a lot, which is mildly amusing to us older folks. I’m interested to see that in England a seventeen-year old can apparently work behind the counter of a bar and that a sixteen-year old can drink at same. (This is somewhat less amusing.) And True Love is identified by whether your stomach lurches when you see the guy. (The bigger the lurch, the truer the love.) More helpfully to readers of all ages, each chapter of this book has an epigraph “Secret of Love,” viz. Secret No. 3: “Love is a bit like a doodle by van Gogh–your lopsided circle could be a masterpiece to someone else.”

Yeah, okay, whatever.