Mr. Darcy goes to Hogwarts.
No, wait, that’s not quite true, since the posh boarding schools Longbourn Academy for girls and Pemberley for boys are located in the U.S.
To increase “diversity” (meaning accepting people whose fathers make less than a seven-figure income) and to improve its academic and arts programs, Longbourn awards scholarships, called “charity cases” by the girls. Entering as a junior on a music scholarship, and hazed unmercifully by the snobbish rich girls, Lizzie Bennet from Hoboken, New Jersey, has a chip on her shoulder when she meets wealthy Will Darcy, just back with his friend Charles Bingley from a semester at a London school. Everything is gearing up for spring prom, the biggest event of the junior girls’ year. Lizzie’s sweet best friend, Jane, hopes to attend with charming Charles, but stuck-up Will doesn’t seem to like Lizzie, apparently because she is a charity case.
Working at her after-school job as a barista, Lizzie also meets handsome George Wickham, “Wicks,” a former Pemberley boy who blames Darcy for getting him kicked out of school. Hot Wicks flirts with Lizzie, especially when she can give him free drinks.
When not employed in hazing Lizzie by throwing coffee or milkshakes on her, the junior girls obsess over their prom gowns (“Should I go with Vera or Versace?”) and anguish and scheme To Get Asked. Lizzie is Asked to attend–by boring Colin. But why is Darcy hanging around the coffee shop and walking her home at night, if he doesn’t say anything? Then Wicks and Jane’s sister, fourteen-year old Lydia, run off to take a hotel room together (drinking is made clear; other matters are hinted at but do not occur, and probably most ‘tweens won’t pick up on the concern). To whom will our heroine turn to rescue Lydia?
I loved Prom and Prejudice. I found the characters to be fully realized in a modern teen way, and enough of the plot line remains true to Austen to satisfy me. The transplantation of the characters to exclusive boarding schools makes perfect sense and replaces Austen’s class-conscious world nicely–especially as realized in the characters of Caroline Bingley and her BFF Cat, who are prime instigators in hazing Lizzie and Charlotte, another charity case.
There are no great surprises in the story (and no vamps, weres or supes—yay!), and I found this a sweet, funny and warm-hearted version of P&P. In particular, I liked the fact that the heroine, struggling over her Variations on a Theme by Paganini by Rachmaninoff (wow, in how many books for adults, let alone teens, do heroines struggle with difficult piano pieces?) gets some useful fingering advice from an unexpected source. Will softens up nicely and believably. And I loved the ending!
My twelve year-old niece liked this book, and I would recommend it to any teen or ‘tween, whether they were interested in Austen or not, as the story stands very strongly on its own feet. Since it is written with love for and understanding of the original, many adult Janeites will enjoy Prom and Prejudice as well.
(Note that Eulberg’s Prom and Prejudice is published by Scholastic Books; there is another high school novel with the same title, published by Teen Book By You, in which you can purchase a professionally bound, 150-page novel with your favorite young person’s name, features and friends interspersed throughout the story. This book does not appear to have any connection to Austen’s P&P.)