Author: Ibi Zoboi
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
Okay, I have to start this out by saying that I am NOT a contemporary reader. I just…always want to smack these teens upside the head and tell them they are being dumb. Teens in fantasy or sci-fi are just easier to stomach for me. But this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so I decided to overlook my aversion to contemporary for my love of Austen. That all being said, I mostly enjoyed this book.
Let’s start with what I liked: the setting and supporting cast. The author brings Bushwick, New York to life in a way that dropped me right into the streets inhabited by the Benitez family. You can hear it, you can smell it, you can taste it. I truly felt like I had experienced a piece of life in this neighborhood.
Then we have the supporting cast, who were all so perfectly characterized. Specifically, Carrie (Caroline Bingley) and Warren (Wickham). Carrie is snobby and uptight, but also has a likable side that her counterpart lacked in the original story. Warren on the other hand, is somehow more despicable than Wickham ever was. The updated version of his past discretions are so good, but in a way that just makes you sick. The Benitez family is also nicely updated and are just as wonderfully ridiculous.
My main problem lies in Zuri Benitez (Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darius, while aggravating at times because he is a teenage boy, was not that bad. He just lacked any smoldering or brooding or chemistry. He wasn’t a lovable grumpy rich guy, he was a teenage boy and nothing more. And then there is Zuri. I kinda hated her and it is really hard to like a book when you strongly dislike the main character. Zuri, at first glance, is smart, streetwise, and wants to take care of her family. But the moment the Darcy boys move in to the newly renovated Mini Mansion across the street, all that goodness goes out the window. Zuri is ridiculously rude, judgmental, and hypocritical, in ways that go beyond her original counterpart’s flaws. She gets all twisted about her sister, Janae (Jane), being happy with Ainsley (Mr. Bingley) and constantly complains about how she’ll have no time with her. But then once her sister is heartbroken, Zuri decides that trying to date two guys and spending NO TIME with her sister is what she wants to do. Um, excuse me? The more the story went on, the more I disliked Zuri and it just wore me down because I love the character of Elizabeth Bennet.
As I stated before, I mostly enjoyed this book. I think it is a smart and well-done update of Pride and Prejudice. It is not a carbon copy of the original story, but instead a timely retelling that tackles gentrification and classism. This book makes no apologies in how it portrays the lives of characters that are usually relegated to token ethnic characters and I know that we need more books like this. At the end of the day, I’ve decided to give this book a 3.5 star rating because while I thought the writing was phenomenal for the most part, I felt the two leads had zero chemistry and I didn’t like either of them.
Have you read Pride? What did you think?