"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast." Julie knows from bitter experience: her best friend, Ashleigh, is an Enthusiast. Ashleigh's current fancy is also Julie's own passion, Pride and Prejudice, and the heroine's quest for True Love. And so Julie finds herself swept along with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks and sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys' prep school. There they discover several likely candidates for True Love, including the handsome and sensitive Parr. And Julie begins to wonder if maybe this obsession of Ashleigh's isn't so bad after all. . . .
Despite the fact that Julie Lefkowitz is often exasperated by her best friend Ashleigh, "an Enthusiast," the 15-year-old loyally tolerates and often takes part in Ashleigh's various crazes. Ashleigh's current interest is the book Pride and Prejudice, and her latest scheme is to crash a formidable boys' school to attend a dance and find a 21st-century version of Mr. Darcy for herself, as well as a suitable companion for Julie. Dressed in vintage gowns, the girls do manage to slip into the dance and hook up with two agreeable young gentlemen. The problem is that both girls become smitten with the same guy-the shyer, more refined of the two boys. What follows is a sequence of witty exchanges, comic errors and miscommunications that could be taken right out of a Jane Austen novel. When all four characters get cast in a play, opportunities for passionate encounters abound; love triangles emerge and eventually evolve into appropriate romantic pairings. Those familiar with Jane Austen's writing style and themes will most appreciate the many overt and subtle references to the 19th-century author. If a couple of episodes seem a little over the top (as when Parr-allegedly-gets locked out of campus and climbs through Julie's window to share her bed for the night), readers caught up in this debut novel's romantic whimsy and humor will willingly suspend their disbelief. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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September 05, 2007
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Excerpt from Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
From Chapter One:
"What good is a heroine without a hero? From what I remember of freshman year, we will be hard-pressed to find even a single gallant at Byzantium High. I despair of finding a pair of them there! But fortunately, I have discovered the answer."
Clearly Ashleigh had finished the research portion of her fad and moved on to the active stage. Now that she had decided to enact a 200-year-old love story with us as the heroines, I was afraid the results would be mortifying.
Without much hope, I tried to head her off. "I thought you despised boy-crazy girls like Michelle Jeffries and those people. You always said crushes were for noodleheads."
Ashleigh drew herself up to her full height, which I couldn't have done in her position--standing on my bed--since my head would have hit the sloping roof; her figure may be more mature than mine, but she's six inches shorter.
"I speak not of crushes, Miss Lefkowitz," she replied, "but of True Love."
True Love! What girl hasn't dreamed of that? Even the shyest among us longs for a soul mate--someone who will understand our hopes and fears, laugh at our jokes, offer us his coat when the afternoon turns cold, charm our parents, and admire us, flaws and all. . . .
Yet if Ashleigh cherished a similar dream, I feared for her peace of mind. For is True Love likely to come to a high school sophomore who dresses in a chorus robe and ballet slippers?
"Okay, but listen, Ash," I said. "You're not planning to go to school wearing that, are you? No guy will even look at you." Me neither if they see me with you, I added inwardly. "Couldn't you please, please, please wear jeans?"
As always, my plea fell on deaf ears. "I see not the necessity of discussing with you, Miss Lefkowitz, the propriety of a young lady wearing Trousers. As you know, modesty forbids us to reveal the shape of the Lower Limbs."
If you do get a boyfriend, he's going to want to see a lot more than just the shape of your Lower Limbs, I argued silently. Fortunately, I reflected, the school year wouldn't start for another week--enough time, I hoped, to make her see reason.
"And don't you think you could call me Julie?" I continued. "We've known each other long enough, surely."
"My dearest Julia, you are right, indeed you are right. After all, in Pride and Prejudice Miss Elizabeth Bennet addresses her bosom friend, Miss Lucas, by the name of Charlotte, and they are no more affectionately attached than the two of us. But please, my dear friend, allow me to continue. As I said, I believe I have the solution to our puzzle of where to find our heroes."
"Our puzzle? It's not my puzzle," I put in.
Ashleigh shook me by the arm, letting her language slip a bit in her impatience. "Will you listen already? In Pride and Prejudice, where do the younger Bennet girls turn for lively masculine company? Why, to the regiment of soldiers quartered near their home. Were we to follow their lead, where better to seek suitors than among our neighboring young men in uniform?" . . .
Forefield, an exclusive boys' prep school, rises above the town of Byzantium both geographically and socially. Its main building, once the mansion of the Forefield family, can be seen from most of the town, including my attic window. As a little girl I thought it was an enchanted castle, the home of a witch or a princess. I now considered it the home of gawky boys with crests embroidered on their blazer pockets--that is, of snobs, dorks, adders, or (most likely) snobbish, dorky adders. . . .
"You want to crash the Snoot School Dork Dance? Are you out of your candy wrapper? What could that possibly have to do with Jane Austen?"
"Surely, Miss Lefkowitz, you can see that a gathering of young gentlemen dressed in formal attire, well practiced in time-honored dance steps, and unaccustomed to the company of young ladies--and therefore bound to treat us with modesty and respect--is the ideal place to meet our matches. Can you be blind to the perfection of the plan?"
Perfection! If the plan had any, I certainly was blind to it. In my experience, at least, boys who hadn't spent a lot of time around girls were less likely, not more, to behave themselves.