Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

I Thought You Were Chinese

In preparation for the release of The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet, Alix takes a look at the first Lizzie Bennet Diaries spin-off book.

I Thought You Were Chinese

BOOK REPORT for The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Katie Rorick

Cover Story: Phoning It In
BFF Charm Single White Female: Been There, Done That
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Nerd Diary
Bonus Factors: Female Friendship, Backstory, Unreliable Narrator
Relationship Status: Booty Call

Cover Story: Phoning It In

Come on y’all, you’re not even trying. At least 86 the photo. Who would keep a polaroid of themselves stuck to the cover over their Moleskine? It’s just weird.

The Deal:

Lizzie Bennet is a 24-year-old graduate student living at home when she decides to start a YouTube vlog for a school project. Originally designed to examine disparate perspectives and communication styles in her parents' house, the videos take on a life of their own. Soon Lizzie’s not just telling her own story to the internet, but also that of her family, friends, and even enemies.

Paralleling the events of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet offers a look at the lives of the Bennet sisters when the camera isn’t rolling.

BFF Charm Single White Female: Been There, Done That

Normally when I review Pride and Prejudice retellings/sequels, I assess the heroine based not on how much I want to be friends with her, but how much I want to become her. In Lizzie’s case, that transformation feels a bit regressive–not so much for the dye job and the YouTube vlog, but more for the mid-twenties-idealistic-snarky-grad-student-with-some-underexamined-privilege-and-gender-politics-issues. I like Lizzie, but sometimes she also makes me cringe, mostly when she shits all over Charlotte’s career choices, or when she says literally anything about Lydia, ever.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

This incarnation of Lizzie and Darcy’s relationship has never really done it for me, although I know I’m in the minority here. They’re fine, I guess. I was always more invested in Lizzie’s relationships with her sisters and Charlotte than her romance with Darcy.

Talky Talk: Nerd Diary

Su and Rorick faithfully translate Lizzie’s style from YouTube to paper; I always feel like I can hear Ashley Clement’s voice coming off the page. (And bonus! If you get the audio book, it really IS Ashley Clement’s voice coming off the page.) Because of the diary format, we have to wade through a little more angst than in the webseries, but they manage to keep it within tolerable levels.

The one additionally piece here that may make or break the book for you is the academia factor. Because Lizzie’s a big nerd, we get substantially more discussion about her grad program than in the original series. Mostly it just provides some intellectual motivation for her video project, but there are notes of self-satisfaction, like when Lizzie name-drops Hank Green (who originally produced the series). It doesn't bother me much–I actually enjoy most of the academia talk–but I know others who read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and really dislike this aspect.

Bonus Factor: Female Friendship

Even though I’m lukewarm about the romance in this book, I love the fact that the story focuses so heavily on the importance of Lizzie’s relationships with her sisters and Charlotte. Charlotte is the MVP of this book; she always tells it like it is. Here she is on the subject of George Wickham:

"Out of your league?" Charlotte scoffed. "Why, because he spent four hours a day at the gym? Please, you were so outside his league I consider your foray into dating him slumming, caused by temporary insanity."

Bonus Factor: Backstory

This book fills in some backstory that is missing from the book. Some is minutiae that fans of the webseries will enjoy (finally we get a decent explanation for all of Bing’s time away from “Med School,”), but other details are pretty major plot points that paint events from the series in an entirely new light.

Bonus Factor: Unreliable Narrator

On the theme of shedding new light on old events, I love the idea that Lizzie is unreliable as a narrator. This theme is touched on occasionally in the original series when other characters comment on Lizzie’s interpretation of people and events, particular with regards to Darcy:

(Backstory side note here: the book implies that the music mentioned in this episode is a One Direction song. Darcy is trying to get Lizzie to dance to One Direction with him. In like, the basement of Netherfield. That is desperate, bro.)

But at the same time, we are often reminded that Lizzie has an uncanny ability to remember dialogue:

The book is all of this on steroids. Because it’s diary format, the only thing readers have to check against Lizzie’s perception of events is our own ability to read between the lines. That’s remarkably shaky ground. Even when I’m sure something has been exaggerated for comic effect in the videos, sometimes it isn’t the case. According to Lizzie’s diary, Mrs. Bennet really did call Ricky Collins a “dickhead” that one time.

It’s kind of a scary commentary on life: your perception of events is frequently wrong, but also, if you can’t trust your own opinions, whose can you trust?

Casting Call:

The Cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as the cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Why mess with perfection?

Relationship Status: Booty Call

When the series ended, I thought it was over between me and LBD. And then look who showed up on my doorstep?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (dammit!). The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is available now.

 

Shameless Self-Promotion!

Check out our Jane Austen themed t-shirts!

Alix West's photo About the Author: Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.
K