April 10, 2013

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood - Abby McDonald

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood book cover
Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Candlewick!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Hallie and Grace Weston have never exactly seen life eye to eye. So when their father dies and leaves everything to his new wife, forcing the girls to pack up and leave San Francisco for a relative’s house in shiny Beverly Hills, the two sisters take to their changing lot in typically different styles. Shy, responsible Grace manages to make friends with an upbeat, enterprising girl named Palmer but still yearns for her old life — and the maybe-almost-crush she left behind. Meanwhile, drama queen Hallie is throwing herself headlong into life — and love — in L.A., spending every second with gorgeous musician Dakota and warding off the attention of brooding vet Brandon. But is Hallie blinded by the stars in her eyes? And is Grace doomed to forever hug the sidelines? (from Goodreads)

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood was exactly the kind of novel I was craving when I picked it up - fun, light, sweet. I'd consider this a great read for the beach or the pool this summer. Plus, it totally gets bonus points for being based on Sense and Sensibility, one of the two Jane Austen novels I've actually read.

One of the things that instantly made me want to read this novel is that it was about sisters Hallie and Grace Weston. I love reading about sisters, since I have two of my own. The resemblance between Hallie and Grace's relationship and that of mine with my own siblings was uncanny, though their personalities were exaggerations of ours. Dramatic, personable Hallie and quiet, responsible Grace definitely clash a lot over their differences in this book. But it was a fact that, even if they got angry or "hated" each other, there was always the deep, underlying devotion and loyalty that they shared.

I definitely identified more with Grace, as we share many traits in common. She's the model sibling, the one who is more likely to stay at home than to go out to a party. She's also the one who holds it all together when her dad dies, a responsibility that is a lot for someone her age. I identified a lot with being loaded with responsibilities not really meant for me, but I identified even more with her when she experiences a moment of regret because she never took a step, or a risk, or a chance. Eventually, she realizes a few things and comes to terms with what she needs to do to get on with her life, and I think it was handled really well.

Both the sisters experience romantic entanglements in this novel. I find it particularly intriguing that there's a definite contrast. One runs headlong into a romantic relationship, and pours her heart and soul into feeling every single feeling. The other, on the other hand, is too scared to take the next step - and ends up torturing herself over the regret she feels over that choice. It's fun to get to experience the spectrum of emotions with them both, and I love how each of their relationships winds up in the end.

The special part of Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood is that both Hallie and Grace gain all sorts of experiences that change who they are forever. As teens, all of us went through moments that defined us or branded us for the rest of our lives, and it is the same for these two. The authenticity with which this is done in this novel is really spot on, though the element of living in Hollywood, running with an affluent crowd (that's Hallie) and living with an uncle and his wife who spoil them silly does add a bit of fancifulness.

All in all, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood is definitely one of the more enjoyable books I've read this year. The writing was well-done, the story was fun to read and the characters are accessible and understandable. I really liked it, and would definitely recommend it to fellow contemporary YA fans looking for a fun spring/summer read.


  1. I think this is the first review I've seen for this book and I'm soooo glad it's a good one. I really love Abby McDonald's books. They're allways the right mix of fun and light with just enough depth. Can't wait to read :)

  2. Oh, how cute! I've been looking for another cute beach read, and I love Jane Austen spin-offs/retellings. I'm so glad you liked it!

  3. I remember you telling me how much you enjoyed this one and it does sound like a really cute read! Will have to pick this up when I'm in the mood for something light and fun :)

  4. Thanks for the review! I definitely need to look into this book. Love Jane Austen, and modern day books based on JA books. I don't have any sisters (or brothers for that matter) but I love to read books about sisters.

  5. This was on my TBR list but it never really stood out to me. I have a HUGE pile of very serious, dark books right now so I'm thinking I could pick up this book as a break.

  6. Sounds like a fun read for spring/summer. There's rumours that England may see the sun this weekend, but I right now it feels as though winter's refusing to leave...at least "Winter's NOT coming" :)

  7. So glad you liked this, Alexa - I'm a giant fan of Abby McDonald, and I've been eagerly anticipating this book. Really glad she seems to focus on the sisters more than the romance. Thanks for your review!

  8. You had me at sisters, I have a younger one and I always find myself enjoying, and feeling emotional, when I read about sisters!

  9. I feel like Abby's books are always good for a light, fun, yet still super enjoyable read!

    I have yet to read Sense and Sensibility. I KNOW. Soon, my friend.

  10. Well this just looks adorable! I haven't seen this one yet :)

  11. This totally sounds like a sweet read and I'm glad you liked it so much! I'm always a sucker for Austen adaptations.

  12. This sounds like a cute book! I love it when family (and in this case, sisters) are a big part of a story, since I'm so close with my own. And I really can't get enough of Jane Austen adaptations after LBD, and I'm trying to read/watch as many as possible ;) I'm definitely adding this to my TBR and/or beach bag :)

  13. I am definitely going to pick this up and add it to my pool/beach read pile! Everyone loves a good Austen "re-telling". Great Review :)


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