Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Northanger Alibi

It does seem that, as well as vampires, Jane Austen adaptations remain all the rage at the moment. Sometimes the two subjects are merged as they were in Mr Darcy, Vampyre. When I reviewed that I admitted that I am not an Austin fan. Let me elaborate.

I am aware that the film Clueless is based, loosely at least, on Austen’s Emma. I enjoyed Clueless, the Emma adaptation my wife had me watch left me cold. Why? In modernising the work it became more accessible to me. I have not read Northanger Abbey but I understand it is unusual within the Austin books and is itself a parody of Gothic fiction – so perhaps I owe it to myself to give that one a chance at some point.

In the meantime this book by Jenni James is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey, set mainly in modern Washington State. As a modern retelling I could understand where it was coming from and Jenni James uses the book to parody Twilight and the ongoing vampire fad. More than that, she specifically, though affectionately, lampoons the Twi-hards and their over-enthusiastic reactions to the franchise.

Claire is a sixteen year old girl who, along with sister Cassidy, is taken to Seattle for summer vacation by friends of the family. The husband of the friends is there for a training seminar and they have friends in the city who have teenage kids. Claire is wary of the twins, as they must be rather sad if they need friends to be imported into the city, but is excited about the trip generally. You see, Claire is a Twilight fan and wants to visit Washington State – she even brings the four books of the series with her.

She actually gets on with Tony and Nora but something about Tony seems odd. He seems stronger, perhaps, than he should, he seems to be able to read her thoughts and he doesn’t seem to want to eat food. She realises that Tony must be a vampire and he seems interested in her. She also meets, through a stolen kiss, a young man called Jaden. He, it transpires, is Native American – indeed a Quileute – he has a rash nature and the surname Black… Could he be a werewolf?

Claire is going to discover that matters of the heart are much more complicated than any book and some secrets are there for the best of reasons. She will also discover that the supernatural is perhaps more mundane than she allowed for.

I found myself enjoying this quite a lot. Okay, at heart it is a teen romance novel but it is also a parody, and the sharpness of the writing is definitely one of the pluses to the book. It takes the Twilight fad and gently pokes fun at it, but in such a way that it couldn’t be seen to be offensive in its parody and thus will be accessible to the Twilight fans more so than the more caustic parodies (not that there is anything, conceptually, wrong with those). James opens the sticky question of teenage romance and first love, as well as confusion of the heart, and lays it bare with a scalpel of witty prose.

Perhaps one of the more unusual books that will feature on the blog, due to its intrinsic nature and the target audience, but with its Twilight based premise it deserves an honourable Mention.

1 comment:

Zahir Blue said...

I've got to say, this has the possibility of being utterly charming.