Title: Epic Fail
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Published By: HarperTeen
As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.
As the daughter of the new principal, new-girl-on-campus Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.
When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.
I can't stop smiling. I really can't. If you were to look at me right now, you'd see that my eyes are all bright and sparkly, and that I'm actually biting my lower lip to keep myself from grinning too hard. But you know what? I'm not going to try too hard to keep all these positively giddy feelings at check. It's not too often that I feel all these emotions - that I feel so refreshingly good, happy and young, for the lack of a better word - after reading a work of fiction that I'm actually going to hold on to all of these feelings as long as I can. Also, I understand that this book is author Clair LaZebnik's first attempt to break into the YA market. Oh boy, did she do a fantastic job!
We are introduced to the strong-willed and deeply unprejudiced (or so she thinks) Elise and her family as they all move to a new town and subsequently attend - the mother as the principal and the dad as a professor, respectively - a school which caters to the sons and daughters of the well-known. Elise vows not to let fame and fortune affect the way she sees her classmates, and she is determined not to judge anyone based on their celebrity status. Elise, however, automatically labels Derek, the daughter of two Hollywood superstars, as self-absorbed and a jerk based on a few interactions, and inherently judges him because she thinks she knows who she is, and not because she truly knows him.
Throughout the novel, we then get to see Elise's character grow as she realizes that being judgmental goes two ways - she sides with a classmate just because she automatically thinks that Derek is in the wrong - and doing so is clearly not the right way to go about things. Everything is not as it seems, after all. In her haste to not let Derek's fame cloud her judgment of his character, she goes out of her way to paint him in a bad light, because she doesn't want people to think the only reason she thinks good of him is because of who his parents are. We also get to understand why Derek is aloof and wary of those around him, and why he isn't keen on letting people in his life. However, he decides to trust Elise and shares with her something he hasn't told anyone, and then wins Elise over. The rest, as they say, is history.
I also loved the the way LaZebnik portrayed family dynamics in Epic Fail. While Elise, the MC, and her sister, Juliana, may feel embarrassed by the way the rest of the family act, they're still family, and that's that. Sure, the two of them might consider their fourteen-year-old Layla to be a bit immature and too young to actually hang out with, but they would still drop everything to help her once she really needs it. On the flipside, Layla - while convinced that her family is nothing but a nuisance - would still tell Elise something that she feels that Elise ought to know even though they are in a fight. Elise may want to drop dead whenever her family embarrasses her, but she would never allow somebody to put them down in front of her. The Benton family is portrayed realistically - I would have no trouble believing that their family is actually a family that lives next door.
Though Epic Fail is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice, the two stories aren't one and the same. The main plot points are the same, sure, but LaZebnik successfully created her own world to play with. All in all, Epic Fail is a fun and quick read - the story is easy to follow, the characters are all interesting and fun to read about, and Elise and Derek's chemistry is off-the-charts. Sizzling, actually. Even so, LaZebnik managed to convey a believable love story that was told at the right pace (no to instalove!) with just the right amount of tension, mystery, and swoon factor. Because come on, you can't not love Derek. Trust me. Also, there's no possible that you won't be smiling - even just a little - after you finish this book.
Also, if you can't get enough of Elise and Derek (like me), you might want to check this out.
Rating: 4 stars