About the Book

Title: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries)
Published: 2015

Cover Story: Brown Bag It
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: -eleventy billion and also 2
Talky Talk: MKW!Lydia
Ambivalence Factor: PTSD
Bonus Factors: Cameos, New York, Chris the Bouncer
Relationship Status: I’ll Be Your Goth Cousin BFF

Content Warning: This book deals with the aftermath of an emotionally abusive and traumatic relationship.

Cover Story: Brown Bag It

Look, I love Mary Kate Wiles as much as the next LBD superfan, but this cover is just lazy. If one isn’t familiar with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, like say, the majority of the people commuting with you on your morning bus ride and silently judging your reading material, one might think this is one of those secret Christian books. That fuzzy cardigan just screams church social, Lydia.

Also, I’m writing this review from my friend’s living room, and we just had a two minute argument over whether or not Lydia’s purse (tiny suitcase??) looks more like a bowling bag or a fancy hat box. Conclusion? “It’s weird either way.”

The Deal:

Following the events of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the youngest Bennet sister, Lydia, attempts to get her life in back in order after suffering emotional abuse and heartbreak at the hands of her terrible ex, George Wickham. Amidst the fallout of her own trauma and ensuing internet notoriety, Lydia feels she’s finally found her calling studying human psychology. But with her sisters living in New York and San Francisco, Lydia struggles to move forward without her increasingly fragmented support network.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

If you somehow watched all of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and escaped without falling for Mary Kate Wiles’ energetic, complex, vulnerable, perfectly imperfect Lydia, I fear you have no soul.

If you did not watch all of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, WHAT?! WHO ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS? Anyway, meet your new best friend:

Lydia: “You’re only a secondary character if you let yourself be. The Ly-DEE-ahhh does not do background.”

Also, please clear your afternoon/evening, because I have a YouTube playlist for you.

Swoonworthy Scale: -eleventy billion and also 2

He-who-must-not-be-named is sort of lurking around Lydia’s subconscious for most of the book, so that puts a damper on any potential romances. But we do get a couple potential paramours to work with.

The first is this dude named Cody, who is basically that guy in your MFA. If you read Fangirl and fell in love with Nick, Cody is the man for you. For the rest of us who don’t have terrible taste, he is obviously THE VERY SECOND WORST for a multitude of reasons. Even though I could smell his bullshit from a mile away, I still wasn’t prepared for how awful he is. Don’t worry, though, y’all, Lydia’s (eventually) got this.

Lydia’s other suitor is a dreamboat named Milo, whose biggest appeal is having appropriate respect for people’s boundaries and a firm grasp on what consent sounds like. And while there is nothing sexier than an informed understanding of consent, Lydia’s emotional state during the events of this book mean that she’s not really in a place to offer enthusiastic consent. But Milo is great, and no matter what happens in the book or in the future, we get the sense that he’s going to be a good person for Lydia, either platonically or romantically.

As a special bonus, we get a new romance for cousin Mary! Eddie is out, y’all. Violet is in.

Talky Talk: MKW!Lydia

There’s a very sweet note in the acknowledgements about Mary Kate Wiles:

Lydia would not exist without the talent of Mary Kate Wiles. She took a character that most people dislike in Pride and Prejudice and made her alive and adorbs. Her voice played in our heads as we wrote, and we hope we did her Lydia justice.

Kiley and Rorick did a fantastic job of preserving Lydia’s voice from the series. That doesn’t mean I am always into it; I find Lydia’s constant abbreviations to be rather grating, and sometimes the book feels like an infomercial for glitter gel pens. I have the hardest time reading Lydia’s academic assignments; the informality of tone and language makes me cringe, every time.

However, the voice feels consistent with the character that Wiles created (with the help of the team of LBD writers, particularly Kiley herself). One of the things I loved about LBD was how annoying the characters–particularly Lizzie–could be at times. It feels realistic; no matter how much you love someone, you are bound to find them kind of obnoxious from time to time. I think Jane Austen would be proud of the way LBD always celebrates flaws.

Furthermore, this is a book centered around personal empowerment, about Lydia rediscovering the voice she feels like she’s lost. Finding confidence in one’s voice is obviously an important step for trauma recovery, but it’s also a good lesson for all of us to learn. If I had pandered to every college professor who hated my writing style, I might have a better GPA on my transcript, but I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this review today. The way I write and talk is part of who I am, and while that naturally changes and evolves over the course of my life, nobody gets to determine how that change manifests itself but me. So while Lydia might have a long way to go towards adjusting her voice for academic writing, the most important thing she can learn is that it’s HER voice, and nobody can take that away.

Ambivalence Factor: PTSD

While I was VERY EXCITED to read this book, I was admittedly nervous about the prospect of reviewing it. I have rewatched LBD many times, but I always skip over the videos of George and Lydia because I find them so difficult to sit through. Kudos to Mary Kate Wiles’ and Wes Aderhold’s acting chops, because I cannot see them onscreen together without tasting bile in my mouth.

It’s never explicitly stated, but Lydia suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder following the events of LBD. I feel pretty comfortable armchair diagnosing this one because I have spent the past two years of my life getting treatment for my own case of PTSD. And while Lydia and I may have very different trauma narratives, I see many of my own symptoms in her: nightmares, trust issues, avoidance, misplaced shame/guilt, inability to focus, self-destructive behavior–I could go on like this for a while. It’s never going to be easy for anyone to read about this shit, but that’s especially likely to be the case if you’re also a trauma survivor, like me.

There’s a whole conversation we could have about sensitive reading material and trigger warnings, but I’m not particularly interested in having that conversation. It’s been done a thousand times already. When I started this book, I knew, more or less, what I was getting into here based on my prior knowledge of LBD.

What I am interested in discussing is how well Kiley and Rorick handled sensitive material here. And that answer is: amazingly well.

Many writers would have been tempted to dwell on the trauma itself, and… I guess that could have been ok. But we already saw that trauma play out onscreen. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet isn’t about that trauma–it’s about living with the aftermath, which can sometimes feel more damaging than the event itself. It might seem obvious to say, but recovery is really fucking difficult. Sure, at the end of LBD, Darcy swoops in to save the day, but Lydia doesn’t just get to walk away unscathed. Her trust has already been betrayed, pretty horribly, and now she has to carry that burden with her forever.

What Darcy prevents from happening would certainly have been a worse ending for Lydia than the one she gets. Unfortunately, with trauma, there’s almost always a “worse” outcome. And from my own experience, it’s really difficult to give yourself permission to feel as shitty as you do when things “aren’t as bad as they could have been.”

That’s the crux of Lydia’s struggle here, and what really rings true to me. Things could have been so much worse, so she feels like she should be able to put the pieces back together faster than she actually can. She’s trapped in this paradoxical world where she’s regaining her confidence and self-worth, but she still feels so much guilt and shame about what happened that none of that confidence makes sense. She wants her friends and family to treat her normally instead of like a broken person, yet she needs their emotional support more than ever. IT’S ALL SO FRUSTRATING AND FAMILIAR!

I wish I’d read this book years ago. Then again, I’m not sure I would have known what to do with it, or seen myself in Lydia like I do now. That’s the thing about trauma–it doesn’t give a fuck about your timetable; it demands processing on its own schedule.

Bonus Factor: Cameos

Wheeeee so many cameos! We get to check in with most of the characters from the original series. Sadly, Charlotte, Fitz, and Gigi never make an appearances, and Darcy is frequently mentioned but never present (UGH, it’s like the first 59 episodes of LBD all over again, STOP TORTURING ME, GUYS). But we get the rest, even a brief but hilarious voicemail from the ever-endearing and delusional Ricky Collins.

My favorite cameo, though, comes in the second half of the book, when Lydia goes to visit Jane in New York. One morning, Bing takes her to work at the youth center where he volunteers. First of all, it’s really nice to see Lydia having a relationship with Bing–we never got too much of that in the original series. Second, Lydia and Bing are my new dream team. They could be superheroes. Sure, Jane SEEMS like she would be the most helpful Bennet sister in a crisis, but she’s a little too suffocating. You’d always run the risk she’d accidentally drown a troubled teen in a bathtub-sized mug of tea. By contrast, Bing’s friendly warmth combined with Lydia’s cool, chill demeanor is the perfect combo; together, they are a Venus fly trap for luring in at-risk youth.

Bonus Factor: New York City

Overhead view of New York City skyline

Being more of a small-to-mid-sized city girl, I like New York City, but I’m not in love with New York City. I am, however, in love with the idea of Lydia escaping her terrible, judgy, small town and finding some peaceful anonymity amidst a sea of millions. And while Jane does drag her about to various overcrowded tourist destinations, Lydia’s relationship with New York is more like mine: a nice place to walk around and get lost in for a little while. A true psychologist at heart, she doesn’t see New York as a set of landmarks and skyscrapers to visit, but as a collection of people to meet and observe. Amongst the new faces, Lydia finds more pieces of herself, both old and new.

Bonus Factor: Chris the Bouncer

Of all the new characters introduced, I think Chris, a bouncer at Carter’s, is my favorite. He’s basically the best bouncer in all of fiction, including all those bouncers with whom Veronica Mars seems to be chummy.

Relationship Status: I’ll Be Your Goth Cousin BFF

It’s hard for me to be objective about this because I’m already so invested in the characters. I don’t L this book LAS, but I do love it like a cousin. Sure, it’s more into glittery unicorns and cats and “hip” abbreviations than I am, but we’ve been through a lot together, and it’s basically my blood relative bff at this point.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Simon and Schuster. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet is available now.

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Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.