It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. You can go so far as to say that it’s my least favorite of all of her works. It is mainly due to the fact that in my eyes Fanny Price is too meek, too quiet, and so willing to just sit in the wings and wait for what she wants instead of going after it on her own. My motto in life is “life is what you make of it.” You have to go after the things you want. If you expect everything to come to you…..well that’s just lazy.
I’m always interested in hearing about modern adaptations of Mansfield Park because I’m so curious to see what writers do with Fanny’s character. It’s difficult to make introverted characters interesting and appealing…..especially for the YA crowd. When I heard Claire LaZebnik had written an adaptation, The Trouble With Flirting, I was instantly interested. Her YA adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Epic Fail) had me seriously impressed with how she seamlessly transitioned the story from classic literature to a youthful adaptation. (Check out her guest post on the joys and perils of adapting Austen) Knowing all of this I bet you’re asking yourself, “Why did she read this if she dislikes the novel it’s based on?” I knew that LaZebnik had made some significant changes to the story and the characters. It’s the mysterious of the unknown changes that had me totally willing to give it a shot.
Franny Pearson, like most teenagers, begrudgingly takes a summer job in order to earn a little spending money. She takes a job helping her aunt, the costume designer for the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. Although she must spend most of her time behind a sewing machine, she gets to be in close proximity to her crush, Alex Braverman. Alex, on the other hand, barely acknowledges her existence, and is more interested in the girl in the leading role, Isabella. Although this hurts Franny, she becomes distracted by Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt in the program. As she becomes more involved with Harry, Franny’s life becomes more complicated as Alex suddenly becomes much more interested in her than he was before. Was this flirting more trouble than it was worth?
I feel that I first must say THANK YOU CLAIRE LAZEBNIK FOR MAKING MANSFIELD PARK INTERESTING (and for giving Franny some backbone!) I’m seriously so surprised at how hooked I was with The Trouble With Flirting. LaZebnik’s writing is superb, witty, sharp, funny, touching, and relatable. LaZebnik’s Franny is a true accomplishment. She has all of the characteristics that I wish Fanny Price had. Austen purists will probably have a problem with the changes LaZebnik made, but I think that in today’s modern world a woman isn’t frowned upon for going after what she wants (even if what she wants is a man). LaZebnik’s changes make sense and make Franny more interesting and appealing to a younger audience.
Where LaZebnik truly shines as a writer is definitely in her dialogue. The witty banter between Harry and Franny had me laughing out loud fairly frequently. Their attraction to each other quite literally jumps off the pages and hooks you. You truly get a sense of the characters’ emotions and feelings through the dialogue. The stress and uneasiness in Alex and Isabella’s relationship is apparent as are the self-confidence issues that Isabella and Julia feel; the strained relationships between Franny and her Aunt Amelia and Marie and her sometimes boyfriends James are all examples of this.
I truly think teens will enjoy this adaptation. The similarities to life at that age are abundantly clear. All the angst over who likes who, all the jealousy of the girl who gets the guy you want, the depression over losing your first love, the spark of new friendships and relationships….it’s all there. If you haven’t yet read any of LaZebnik’s books I suggest you give them a try. Her ability to get into the teenage mind is simply uncanny.
4 out of 5 Stars
The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik
Paperback: 313 pages
Special thanks to HarperTeen for my review copy!