Review: The Trouble with Flirting

Review: The Trouble with FlirtingThe Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik
Published by HarperTeen on February 26, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed

Franny's supposed to be working this summer, not flirting. But you can't blame her when guys like Alex and Harry are around. . . .

Franny Pearson never dreamed she'd be attending the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. And she's not, exactly. She's working for her aunt, the resident costume designer. But sewing her fingers to the bone does give her an opportunity to spend time with her crush, Alex Braverman. If only he were as taken with the girl hemming his trousers as he is with his new leading lady.

When Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt, shows more than a friendly interest in Franny, she figures it can't hurt to have a little fun. But as their breezy romance grows more complicated, can Franny keep pretending that Harry is just a carefree fling? And why is Alex suddenly giving her those deep, meaningful looks? In this charming tale of mixed messages and romantic near-misses, one thing is clear: Flirting might be more trouble than Franny ever expected.

First Sentence: “When Jasper Snowden’s parents divorced, Jasper got to stay in his bedroom in the big house he’d always lived in, while his parents took turns living there with him.”

Awwww, you guys, this is one of those times where I had super low expectations, because of ideas in my head. I expected this to be super silly, more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. Well, you know what, there is zero guilt in the pleasure I found in The Trouble with Flirting. LaZebnik’s loose Mansfield Park adaptation achieves a real teen feel, and is sweet and funny on top of that.

First, I have to talk about the adaptation, being the Jane Austen fangirl that I am. Now, for all that I love Dear Jane, Mansfield Park is a hot mess. Fanny Price is one of the most boring, passive heroines in fiction, the plot line is way too melodramatic with all of the couple-swapping and infidelity, and, in the end, Fanny marries her cousin. So, as you may imagine, I was a bit hesitant to buy into an adaptation for teens. However, I was totally game, because, if LaZebnik botched it, I wasn’t going to be offended like I would be with Austen’s other novels.

LaZebnik not only does Mansfield Park justice; she greatly improves on it. Now, I’m not going to argue that LaZebnik’s writing is more likely to withstand the test of time, but her characters have so much more life and more appeal. I’m really impressed with the way LaZebnik has arranged Mansfield Park into such a different setting, a summer camp for theater students at Mansfield College. She stays true to the romantic entanglements that are at the heart of Mansfield Park, the petty jealousies, the rampant flirting, and the betrayals.

Now, I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t, but I do have to make vague reference to my very favorite aspect of her modern retelling. LaZebnik starts out with all of the characters very true to their Austenite predecessors, but, as the novel progresses, she brings out the real people underneath the facades. I find this doubly delightful, both because it adds depths to the cast of Mansfield Park and because it’s a reference to Jane Austen’s most popular novel, originally titled First Impressions. The Trouble with Flirting is very much a study in not judging people too harshly off of first impressions, of the importance of looking more deeply into someone’s behavior.

As the cover suggests, The Trouble with Flirting does focus almost entirely on romance. There are some sweet friendships, but not much time is spent on those. If you’re not all about the romance, this will probably not be your thing. LaZebnik does a great job with the romance, though, creating real bonds between characters, staying away from instalove, and looking into the motivations for characters’ behavior.

Also wonderful is how sex-positive The Trouble with Flirting is. Now, it’s not graphic, and, actually, I’m not sure if any of them did have sex, but they might have. Franny could easily have been judgmental of Marie, a girl cheating on her boyfriend, or at least trying to, but there’s no condemnation in her. Is she thrilled about it? No, but she isn’t rude either. She has nothing bad to say about the switching from relationship to relationship that the kids are doing at camp. In fact, she thinks it’s very natural, and has no problem with people hooking up, even if it’s just for fun. Even better, despite the competition for the small crop of straight guys at the theater camp, the girls remain minimally catty throughout.

The one thing that left me a bit disappointed is the lack of theater. Yes, there are some scenes devoted to theater, but it receives minimal screen time. I would have liked the importance of acting in their lives to be a little more obvious. The acting serves solely as a backdrop to the flirting and as yet another reference to Mansfield Park, in which the play performed did serve as an excuse for flagrant flirting.

LaZebnik’s retelling of The Trouble with Flirting charmed me utterly, and does a brilliant job retelling Jane Austen’s stodgiest novel for a young adult audience. This is a wonderful read if you’re looking for something light-hearted, funny, and uplifting.

Favorite Quote:

“Harry says, ‘I’ll carry that.’ In kind of a proprietary way. Like even though Alex bought the books, Harry is the one who should carry them. Because they’re mine. Which you’d think would mean I should carry them . . . but apparently not if you factor in stupid sexist male posturing.”

29 responses to “Review: The Trouble with Flirting”

  1. fakesteph says:

    This sounds adorable. I really want to start reading some Austen, too. I’m starting with P & P, I think.

  2. Jen says:

    I LOVED Harry! LOVED.HIM! 😀 I’m glad this was a nice surprise for you.

  3. Renae M. says:

    Ugh, Mansfield Park. I’m too squicked out by first cousin incest to even think about touching that one again any time soon. Sorry, Jane.

    Very interesting. I’ve seen all the Goodreads ads for this one, but I was only vaguely aware it was an Austen retelling. Like you said, it seems like it could be a lot of fun if handled correctly, and it seems like it was. I’m all for improving on awkward first cousin relationships and the awkwardness that is Fanny Price.

    • Christina says:

      I am so with you on that. I cannot root for the cousincest, especially in an age before birth control. They probably go on to make incest babies and just no.

      I think the reason I liked this so much is that LaZebnik basically rewrote Mansfield Park to be awesome. Better heroine, no cousincest, more believable romance arcs…

    • AnimeJune says:

      I have more tolerance for cousins marrying in 19th century fiction because of the historical period, and the fact that the upper orders in England were all so intermarried they’re all basically cousins anyway.

      What bothered me most about the original book wasn’t that Fanny married her cousin, but that Fanny married the dude who COMPLETELY IGNORED HER and took her for granted in favour of HOT AMBITIOUS MARY CRAWLEY for, like 95% of the novel. Edmund literally falls in love with her on the LAST FREAKIN’ PAGE, right AFTER he finds out Mary is a scheming gold digging ho.

      There’s nothing romantic about being a consolation prize, Fanny.

      I freakin’ HATED Mansfield Park for that reason (I was rooting for Henry) but this adaptation sounds cute!

    • Christina says:

      I have MORE tolerance for it in historical fiction, but I still don’t ship it.

      When I said that wasn’t my biggest issue with MP, which I know I said in the comments somewhere, THAT right there is exactly what I was referencing. I do not approve of Edmund’s behavior or of how negative the attitude is towards every woman that’s not Fanny. It’s just not a positive novel in any regard.

      Same. Also, I think you might approve of this. Let’s just say her changes are good ones.

  4. Leela says:

    Ooo I’m so glad that you enjoyed this much! 🙂

    I’ve recently read Epic Fail by the same author which is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Have you read it? I recommend you, it was a great read.

  5. Amy says:

    This sounds so good. I won it recently and I am looking forward to reading it. I actually haven’t read Mansfield Park, so I have nothing to go off of going into this, but it sounds like a book I will enjoy. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Yay! I think you will love it, Amy! The MP elements added some awesomeness, but I don’t think not knowing will be a big detractor. The characters are still great!

  6. I want to read this SO BAD! This totally looks like something I would love AND a lot of bloggers I trust loved it so I know it’s made for me. I just need more time!

  7. Brandy says:

    I don’t usually read reviews of books already on my TBR, but I was sort of on the fence about this. You have actually gotten me excited about reading it.

    (And yes to Mansfield Park being a hot mess.)

  8. ooh I think I would also enjoy this one. I have read many P&P retellings but because I love that book so much I have been disappointed in every single adaptation. However, for Mansfield Park, I never got around to reading it and judging from what you thought of it, I am glad that i didn’t. The author actually making the story better makes me want to pick it up! sometimes i need a full on romance novel and I don’t think I would be disappointed that there is barely any theatre in it.

    great review!
    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

    • Christina says:

      Unless you’re a completist, I really would suggest skipping Mansfield Park. It’s heavy-handed and not romantic. I was happy to see changes to it, but if someone messes with P&P, I go get my pitchfork. haha. There is theatre, but not as much as I was hoping for.

  9. Kelly says:

    All these Jane Austen retellings of late have me wanting to read all the classics…which, I’ve never done (except for Pride and Prejudice). This sounds like a lot of fun, and I love positive sex messages!

    But a theatre summer camp where the girls aren’t catty…hmm, we’ll see about that! Lol

    • Christina says:

      Ha! I love love love retellings, though they make me sad a lot too.

      Well, they’re a little catty, but they also have motivations and such. Not over-the-top reality tv show catty.

  10. Estelle says:

    I actually didn’t realize this was a Jane Austen retelling… someone told me there was a theater backdrop and I was like IT’S ON. So glad it charmed you. I’m definitely looking forward to reading this title when I get a chance.

    Have a happy weekend!

  11. Nori says:

    I want to read this so bad now! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before either. Every now and then a romantic contemporary surprises me for the good! Also, Jane Austen turned teen theater camp? I have to read it.

  12. Sunny Duvall says:

    I thought this would be a guilty pleasure too! This sounds great and I want to read it even more now. Lovelovelove the review 🙂

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

  13. THIS is a fantastic review, Christina! I remember when I read this a couple months back you telling me how much you LOATHED Austen’s Mansfield Park. And I think I said something along the lines of “But this one is WAY different in may ways!” and it is, isn’t it? It’s hard to gush properly without spoiling but I do so love Franny and the boy that she chose in the end. High five, Franny:)

    • Christina says:

      Mansfield Park is just awful. I kind of want to reread it, just to make sure it really is as bad as I think, but, then again, I really don’t.

      So different, and, yes, I VERY much approve. 🙂

  14. Lexi Gy says:

    What plays were in the book because my friend has my book and i need to know for a book project

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