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Book review: 'Northanger Alibi' pokes fun at Twilight via Jane Austen

By Caitlin Orton

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 3:32 p.m. MST

"NORTHANGER ALIBI," by Jenni James, Inkberry Press, $11.99, 252 pages (f)(ages 12 and up)

In Jenni James' second book of "The Jane Austen Diaries," she takes a stab at revamping one of Austen's lesser-known works, "Northanger Abbey." But where Austen pulls inspiration from haunted and gothic novels, James pulls inspiration from the Twilight saga.

In "Northanger Alibi," Claire Hart, the younger sister of Chloe from the first book in the series, "Pride and Popularity," travels to Seattle for the summer. Being in love with Edward Cullen and having memorized every line of each Twilight installment, Claire is ready to meet her own vampire, and Tony Russo seems to fit all of Stephenie Meyers' vampire criteria.

He's dreamy, quiet, reserved, incredibly wealthy and can somehow read her mind. What other evidence does she need?

As she quickly jumps to conclusions, Claire proves her naivety early on and convinces herself that she lives in a world where fiction can easily become reality. To add to the fantasy, Claire meets Jaden Black, who also happens to be Native American — just like Jacob Black.

Like Austen, James plays with her heroine, poking fun at readers' tendency to immerse themselves too fully into fiction. Claire's obsession with Twilight leads to embarrassment and regret. But with the support of her family and friends, Claire realizes that there's more to life than friendly vampires.

There's no denying that the novel has pockets of cheesiness, but for a young, pop-culture-infused audience, the plot is catchy with a hero as hunky and addicting as Edward Cullen. Though Claire seems flighty at first, she is a strong, independent and uncompromising heroine with spunk and substance. She's the kind of role model parents hope for their daughters, and the author gives readers plenty of reasons to look up to Claire.

With the second installment of "The Jane Austen Diaries," James continues to make Austen's classics come to life for 21st century teens. The plot, language and characters are appropriate for young readers, and on top of that the story reinforces traditional family values. Teenage girls will likely find "Northanger Alibi" as engrossing as Twilight.

Email: orton.caitlin@gmail.com

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