Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnikEpic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
Published by HarperTeen on August 2, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 295
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book Depository

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

- As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school--not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.
- As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn't exactly on everyone's must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise's beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince's best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

You guys, I am so sad right now. I loved my first LaZebnik read, The Trouble with Flirting, and I was told Epic Fail was excellent too. Unfortunately, for me, Epic Fail lived up to its title. As did my performance in the readalong with Debby (Snuggly Oranges) in that I didn’t start until a week after she finished. Oops! Totally my fault. Anyway, this book honestly made me really angry, and the only reason I’m rating it not for me is that, if I were no so obsessed with Pride & Prejudice and able to disassociate Epic Fail from its status as a retelling, I probably would have liked it okay. However, I cannot get past how incredibly bad Epic Fail is as a retelling of Pride & Prejudice.

Of course, it also doesn’t help that I now know just how well Pride & Prejudice can be modernized, since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries managed to do so perfectly. LaZebnik’s retelling, while obviously aiming for a P&P, misses on every level. Core themes and personalities are changed willy nilly, as are circumstances. It’s still obviously P&P, but it’s all askew, and not in a good way. Partly, my issue here is that I was all for changes being made to Mansfield Park, but P&P is perfection, so you have to be really careful.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made some changes too, particularly to the character of Lydia Bennet. Let’s compare the treatment of Lydia as an illustration of where Epic Fail failed. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lydia is boy crazy and prone to bad choices, like her counterpart in the original novel. She also, however, is shown to truly care about her sisters and to truly fall for Wickham, and allowed to escape from the fate forced on her by the circumstances of the era in Pride & Prejudice. Comparatively, Layla, the Lydia character in Epic Fail, is a little bit of a party girl, but mostly just an annoyance. She has no depth and hardly even performs Lydia’s most important plot role of getting into a scandal. There are changes made to her character, most notably not hooking up with Wickham, but they do nothing to improve the story or add depth to her character. They’re done…for no discernible reason.

Speaking of weird unnecessary changes, the opening is jam-packed with these. LaZebnik removes Mary from the equation entirely, leaving the Bennets with four children, but she makes Layla the second youngest, rather than her actual birth order. The Kitty character does absolutely nothing in the entire book, and would have been better removed or made an actual cat, like in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Then there’s the fact that the Bentons have just moved to California, where the parents will work at an expensive prep school that the daughters can then attend for free. At this school, they can rub shoulders with the rich and famous, like Derek (Darcy), son of two Hollywood stars, and Chase (Bingley). Having the Bennets be the ones new to town, rather than the Bingleys and Darcy completely changes the dynamics of the novel. There seems, too, no reason for this change, considering that the parents could have worked at that school before and Derek and Chase could have then transferred in.

Mrs. Bennet is the principal of the school. She’s commanding and stern, with strong principles. She’s determined to stop rule-breaking and improve the school. I thought, here, maybe, would be a bit of depth, a reconsideration of a character. Gone are Mrs. Bennet’s nerves. Instead, she’s overly controlling for other reasons. Actually, she’s just a hot mess of a character, alternating between her principal persona and being a starstruck woman who gets drunk on wine every night that her daughters aren’t out with rich boys. The fuck?

Oh, and then there’s Derek and Elise. This is the most fundamental misunderstanding of Pride & Prejudice. The whole point of P&P is that Darcy and Elizabeth both have character flaws which kept them apart, and they needed to mature to fall in love. Elise certainly has a lot of character flaws, like being even more judgmental than Lizzie and being a terrible judge of character. She’s true-ish to Elizabeth Bennet, but I feel like she’s more hateful and less witty. Derek, on the other hand, is a paragon of virtue. He literally never does anything to Elizabeth but be a bit standoffish and awkward. HE DOES NO WRONG. They don’t fit because she’s a bitch the entire time and he’s a nice guy who just takes her abuse. Darcy’s flaws are what make him such a wonderful love interest. Darcy overcoming those flaws because Elizabeth made him reevaluate just as he did for her is what makes that ship the most magnificent of ships. All of that is completely gone in Epic Fail.

The best I have to say for Epic Fail is that, if you’re not familiar with Pride & Prejudice or are capable of ignoring the fact that it’s a retelling, it’s probably okay. Basically, it’s tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.

Favorite Quote:

“Teach you to wave chocolate in front of me.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif Lizzie Bennet Diaries not impressed

4 responses to “Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    “Basically, it’s tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” YESSSSS I’m such a geek but it makes me SO HAPPY that you ended on that note haha! I really want to check out her retelling of Mansfield Park because I HATED IT. SO. MUCH. And basically had a crisis of identity because who am I now that I have a Jane Austen book I hate??
    Elizabeth recently posted…Mini Reviews: Red Rising and The Waking DreamerMy Profile

  2. “Basically, it’s tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” *snicker snort laugh*

    I have almost completely forgotten about this book by now, but yeah, totally remember how the romance was just… not very shippy at all. Very transparent and awkward and not healthy. Though I’m not as strict on retellings as you are, this one clearly strayed TOO far.

    I actually sold my copy of this book a few months ago ^^; finally decided it wasn’t worth my shelf space. Womp womp.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Most Wanted: April 2015My Profile

  3. Oh, dear, it really is too bad that you didn’t care for this book — but your review is well-reasoned, and I totally agree that P&P retellings are necessarily going to be held up to a higher standard! The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are hard to beat in that arena.
    looloolooweez recently posted…GIANT GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  4. Okay, I so want to rewatch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries right now. I read this such a long time ago, and I gave it 3 stars I think. Or maybe 2.5 stars. I wasn’t in love with it either, although I can’t say that I hated it. But I agree, there are many better P&P retellings out there.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…My Favorite Historical Romance HeroesMy Profile

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