Review of “Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood” by Abby McDonald

This book is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, romantic fiction about the very opposite Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Elinor is governed by her head, and Marianne by her heart.

From one of the many wonderful screen adaptations of Sense and Sensibility

From one of the many wonderful screen adaptations of Sense and Sensibility

In Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, we meet Grace and Hallie Weston. Grace, 16, is a sensible and somewhat stoic realist, while Hallie, 18, is emotional and impulsive. As the story opens, their father has just died – intestate – of a heart attack, leaving them at the mercy of their young and greedy stepmother, Portia. About to be evicted, they find salvation in an offer of housing with their mother’s wealthy cousin, and so they leave San Francisco and head to Beverly Hills. There, Hallie has no interest in Brandon, the brooding and introspective neighbor, but instead starts up a relationship with glamorous Dakota, an aspiring rock star. Meanwhile, Grace struggles with her secret feelings for Theo, who just happens to be the brother of her evil stepmother.


Discussion: This retelling follows the original story arc pretty closely. It is updated of course, and adds a couple of twists, such as Hallie and Grace being half black because of a Nigerian mother. (So what’s up with the cover, you may ask? I wonder the same!) The good guy whom Hallie rejects at first, Brandon, is an Iraqi war vet, which also adds a contemporary element.

Setting the story in Hollywood allows the author an easy target to replicate Austen’s focus on the shallowness of the upper classes, and to provide a showcase for Hallie’s emotionalism (with her aspirations to act).

Evaluation: This is a fun take-off that will appeal to fans of this genre. It is perfectly suitable for tweens: like Austen, the author keeps things pretty chaste, although Grace suspects Hallie is sleeping with Dakota. A postscript tells how everyone ended up, which would make a perfect ending to a movie version, as the credits role by…

Rating: 3/5

Published by Candlewick Press, 2013


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14 Responses to Review of “Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood” by Abby McDonald

  1. Beth F says:

    Fun — I always love Austen retellings. I’ll have to look for this one.

  2. This sounds fun, but part of me fears the LBD might have spoiled me for Austen retellings for a while 😛

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve read, and enjoyed, a few of the Austen spin-offs, but generally can’t get into them.

  4. Sounds very cute and fun! Like Kathy, I have very mixed experiences with Austen-spinoffs/retellings.

  5. Darlene says:

    This sounds fun and I like spin-offs. Don’t know about that cover though. It doesn’t even scream modern Austen at all. Lol.

  6. This could be a cool way to introduce Austen-like stories to YA readers!!!

  7. litandlife says:

    Agree with Staci – this sounds like a great way to get kids to enjoy Austen’s story. Hopefully they’ll want to read the real thing as they grow up.

  8. bookingmama says:

    Wonder if Booking Daughter would like this one? The cover would appeal to her!

  9. stacybuckeye says:

    I love the comparison you made between the upper classes and Hollywood. Perfect.

  10. Iris says:

    Oh, this does sound like fun! I usually like retellings of Austen much better than the stupid sequels that always make me angry.. Not to say that retellings have not disappointed me frequently before. But I think I am at that point where I could do with another one 🙂

  11. sagustocox says:

    Sounds like a good light adaptation for today’s youth and for the summer reading. I like retellings if they are well done…this sounds like a good update.

  12. Thanks for sending this one to me. I can’t wait to make time for it. I watched two movie versions of S&S over the weekend, so I might pick it up soon, since I’m in the mood. 😉

  13. This sounds really entertaining!

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