Book Review: The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet

A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of stumbling across a webseries called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I’m a huge sucker for retellings and I love how well written this one is.  Our heroine, Lizzie Bennet, becomes a communications grad student who starts a vlog as a project for school which then balloons into a year long affair.  Through it she chronicles her older sister’s love life, her struggles in school, and her exasperation (and eventual romance) with the standoffish Darcy.  Armed with a closet full of pilfered clothing for “costume theater” and her best friend Charlotte Lu’s editing skills, Lizzie tells the story of her life in an engaging and funny way.  

With the five year anniversary relaunch of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries coming up on June 5th, now feels like a very good time to review the media tie in book.  Written by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, it’s oh so cleverly titled The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.  Don’t let that prejudice steer you away though.  Yes, I made a joke.  Hush.  Now before anyone points out the normally unbearable nature of media tie in books, let me say something first.  This book rocks.  There’s no two ways about it.

secret diary of lizzie bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
By Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

The Good

First, I really love the characters in The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet.  They are the shining stars of this book.  In the original novel, there are five Bennet sisters.  In this adaptation, we have only three: Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia.  They feel much more developed and well rounded than in the original novel.  It pleasantly surprised me that, despite the first person narrative, readers see certain sides to other characters the point of view character cannot see.  Lydia, who always struck me as a flighty airhead in Austen’s rendition, becomes a caring and compassionate little sister.  Sure!  Lizzie only sees Lydia’s wild child behavior but that’s because she prejudiced.  We also see how smitten Darcy is from the get go even if Lizzie doesn’t.  You can literally see him trying so hard to win her over and it’s so precious that it hurts my heart.   Don’t get me wrong.  Darcy’s pride and arrogance still gives him problems but I loved seeing him flounder for Lizzie’s attention.  

Second, I truly love is the writing style.  As a huge fan of the web series, I associate a certain voice with Lizzie.  It’s distinctive.  Su and Rorick did an excellent job translating that into prose format.  It’s funny and smart.  Little asides pepper each page, adding just a bit more character.  Tidbits of dialogue and phrasing come directly from Austen’s original novel but the voice and style blend it nicely into the modern day setting.  I often forgot I was reading a retelling of a Regency era novel.

Thirdly, the book doesn’t simply spit back the same events as the webseries.  Much of it overlaps obviously; however, some plot points are exclusive to the book.  Readers see the full extent of Wickham’s deceit before it’s ever shown in the webseries.  Certain aspects of Jane’s and Lizzie’s respective romances are presented only in the novel.  It added a certain nuance that didn’t come to me while I was watching the webseries.

The Not-so Good

This brings me to my drawbacks.  I always like to highlight both good and bad in my reviews so here goes.  I’m not entirely sure a casual reader could pick up the book and enjoy it as is.  So much of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet ties back to the webseries.  That’s a big problem with media tie in books.  I might have been alright since I have read Pride and Prejudice but I feel like I would’ve missed some of the details that were covered more in depth in the webseries.  This means that this book can’t stand alone.  

Honestly, that’s about it.  I find no other drawbacks.  If you aren’t sure then consider this.  The authors embedded links to the youtube videos right into the ebook.

 Summing it All Up

I absolutely loved this book.  I loved how well written it is and adored the well rounded characters.  Price wise, it runs about the same price as any other big publishing company’s ebook.  The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet costs $10.99 USD.  However, my copy came from the local e-library so I paid nothing.  Even with the price I would recommend this book.  I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars today simply because I’m not sure if it can stand on it’s own.

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