About a year and a half ago, I reviewed Claire's YA debut, Epic Fail, and LOVED it (read my full review HERE). Claire has several other Chick Lit titles under her belt, as well as some non-fiction titles dealing with Autism (check out her Goodreads profile HERE), but I believe that YA is her forte; She has a real knack for understanding the minds of the characters she writes, as well as those of her target audience. Plus, I love that her YA novels have been loose retellings of Jane Austen novels, because I believe that they will open the minds of a new generation to reading those dusty, old, WONDERFUL books!
So, The Trouble With Flirting? All I can say is that I adored it. (Actually, that isn't ALL I can say, but it sounded good.) I just happened to be sick the day after I received it in the mail *coughs*, and read it straight through in one sitting! It is a loosely based, modern retelling of Mansfield Park, and I thought it was near perfect. Mansfield Park isn't my favorite of Jane Austen's books, nor is it my least favorite; Actually it falls right in the middle for me. That meant one very important thing for me while reading The Trouble With Flirting... I had an open mind to the story, because I didn't feel a tremendous urge to compare and nitpick, as it pertained to the original, because this story is very loosely based on the original, and if it had been, say, Emma, I may not have been so okay with liberties. That said, I am not going to do a play-by-play comparison. I'm just going to tell you the reasons I loved it.
Obviously, I was drawn to it because it's a modern retelling, so the story was big for me. I loved it. I loved that the protagonist, Franny, was at this summer theater camp, not as an actress as she would have liked to have been, but as an assistant to the costume designer, her spinster aunt. You see, Franny's family can't afford to send her to college, let alone an expensive summer camp, so she is spending her summer earning money to help fund her education. When Franny arrives at the Mansfield Summer Theater Program, she runs into her old friend from middle school, Julia Braverman. This is when she finds out that Julia's brother, Alex, is also there; Alex, Franny's forever-crush, and the first boy she ever had it bad for... As Franny catches up with Julia and Alex, she meets other students and begins to build an awkward social life (after all, she is "the help", and these teens are all rich, beautiful, and sophisticated). Enter Harry Cartwright, a roguish ladies man, who has the eye of every girl at Mansfield, except Franny, who is firmly pining for the attached Alex. Well, of course, that means Harry sets his sights on the one he can't have, Franny... The story continues in ways that I wouldn't have expected it to, and it left me feeling very satisfied in the end. Honestly, if you had asked me at the beginning, I would have said that, without a doubt, I knew how it would end, and it makes me happy to know that I would have been dead wrong.
Something else I really loved about this book were the characters and character development Claire went out of her way to show us that people aren't always who they appear to be on the surface, and that everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt. I became so caught up in the details of each character, that I found myself thinking of them as friends. The interpersonal relationships between the characters would not have been so key had the characters themselves not been developed so well. Of course, I loved Franny. She was just a great girl. Sure she was insecure and made a few poor choices, but she always owned up to them, and tried to fix any damage she may have caused. Aunt Amelia really surprised me a lot, as did Isabella, and the boys. I only had one character pegged from the beginning, and that was Marie; She was pretty much the very necessary, if cliche, romantic antagonist.
Like I said before, I found this book to be near perfection. It was light, sweet, and so upbeat, I couldn't help but close it with a ginormous smile on my face. It was like the feeling you have when you've just finished an airy, delectable pastry; Satisfied, yet craving more. That is exactly how I feel about Claire's writing, and I can't wait to read what she has coming next!