Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1004
Apparently a Heroine Can't Just Love History for Its Own Sake
Overall rating 
 
1.7
Plot 
 
1.0
Characters 
 
2.0
Writing Style 
 
2.0
Initially, I thought this sounded awesome. I mean, the heroine loves Jane Austen and history. That's totally exactly like me, right? How can this not be great? Easily, apparently. All you have to do is make the heroine completely vapid and ridiculous. It reminds me a lot of Past Perfect, which was really popular with other people, but that I thought was disappointing. God forbid a heroine actually be able to handle only using her cell phone at night. THE HORRORS!

What's so incredibly frustrating about this is that Libby (I've never met a good Libby) is obviously very smart. She knows a TON of stuff about history. She legit is a nerd. However, she's a complete dumbass otherwise. She got this job at a living history museum, and is like super stoked, until she gets there and realizes she's not allowed to wear her 8 billion sexy outfits with matching shoes and that she can't take her cell phone with her when she's in costume. What the hell did she expect?

My problem is not with the fact that she loves fashion despite being a history nerd. People have varying interests, which is what makes them interesting. No, my issue is that, unless she's telling someone a historical fact, she sounds like she doesn't have a brain in her head. Oh, and because she makes fun of a guy wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. You, lil' miss, are the worst. Probably more importantly, she completely trivializes any woman's interest in history, and makes it into being boy crazy:

"Now, here is the dirty little secret of almost every girl who loves history: somewhere along the line, she fell for a fictional historical hottie. Maybe it was Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in that dripping wet shirt. Or Clark Gable imagining Vivien Leigh without her shimmy. Or a rascally Hugh Grant charming a girl Senseless. Even Leonardo DiCaprio clinging to the Titanic as he slowly turned blue. Believe you me. If a girl loves history, this probably happened. Many of us dream of a time of true love, courtly manners, and real gentlemen."

Can we talk for a second about just how freaking much this PISSES ME OFF? I was a history major in college, so I don't really appreciate that Libby/Strohm just reduced 'almost every' female who likes history into a delusion, boy-crazy girl. I make no secret of my affection of my love for Darcy (and even more, Mr. Tilney, which is the one thing I really share with Libby), but this has NOTHING to do with my interest in history. In fact, my favorite time periods to study are World War II, the Vietnam War, and shogunate Japan. None of these are associated with a particular studly literary hero, thank you very much.

Part of the awkwardness of the novel, especially that of Libby's character never really coalescing into a realist person, is likely a byproduct of Strohm's half-hearted attempt to make this into an Austen spinoff. Although I had seen nothing about that in the description, it was pretty apparent by the end that this is a modernized Northanger Abbey forced onto the plot about the girl working at the living history museum. To do so, she had to make what should have been an intelligent, history-loving character into a boy-obsessed, stupid ninny. Catherine is not the cleverest and she's incredibly naive.

This leads me to a discussion of the romance in the book, which is incredibly formulaic. Through most of this book, I had the vague sense that I'd read it before, largely because it reads like so many other forgettable YA novels. Who the heroine's going to end up with is evident right from the opening, as is who the heroine is going to spend much of the book crushing on, despite his obviously being a prat. If you don't want to know, you might want to skip the rest of the review just in case.

There are two romantic interests in the book: sexypants Cam and sarcastic, nerdy Garrett. Undoubtedly, you can guess which one's going to win and which one was my favorite character. Of course, she initially is turned off by Garrett and obsessed with Cam (a bit of P&P up in the Northanger Abbey story). Sexypants is so obviously a manwhore, but she LEGIT thinks he's a good guy for almost all of her summer at this place, even though he shoved his tongue down her throat UNASKED WHILE SHE WAS WORKING on the SECOND day they'd ever spoken. Yes, honey, go on thinking that that is the behavior of a gentleman. A girl who reads so much Austen supposedly would have seen the warning signs. Just because he brought you flowers does not make him a gentleman. But he's just so hot that he must be nice. Shut up, Libby. Shut up.

Then there's Garrett, who loves Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate-SG1. He's funny, sarcastic and kind. Surprise, surprise, she thinks he's a jerk and that Cam is a nice guy, even though Cam and his friends stare at her breasts all book and throw up all the time from all of the cheap beer they drink. Honestly, I wish she and Garrett hadn't got together, because she sure as hell does not deserve somewhat that awesome. Why is it that nerdy, sarcastic guys are so easy to find in fiction? If the heroines don't want them, they should send them my way, rather than mistreating them for 95% of the book and then taking them as a backup. UGH.

Wow. I really didn't like this. I will say, though, that it was a quick read, and, though it obviously irritated me no end, it wasn't hard to read. I imagine others might enjoy it, so I'm giving it a 2: Not for me. Plus, it deserves a little bonus for the sassy best friend, who I really would have liked to have seen more of, since he reminded me of Betty's nephew on Ugly Betty.
Good Points
Nerdy boy
History knowledge
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