Book review: 'Persuaded' modernizes Jane Austen's classic tale of love and bad timing

By Cait Orton

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 22 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

"PERSUADED: The Jane Austen Diaries," by Jenni James, Inkberry Press, $11.99, 242 pages (f)

Jenni James continues her Jane Austen Diaries with a clever adaptation of “Persuasion.” James’ “Persuaded” plays off some of the same characters as her other novels, but introduces the sweet and humble Amanda as the heroine of this plot.

Three years ago, Amanda made a huge mistake: After her friends convinced her that Gregory was completely wrong for her, she turned him down. He was dorky and invisible, and Amanda’s friends thought she could win the heart of someone more popular. So when Gregory told Amanda that he liked her, she lied and told him she didn’t have feelings for him.

Soon after Amanda rejected him, Gregory moved out of state. But now he’s back — with vengeance. He quickly begins to date Amanda's stepsister and then her best friend. As Amanda tries to sort out her own feelings of regret, guilt and love for Gregory, he’s either trying to distract himself from his feelings for Amanda or torturing her by making her jealous — or both.

When a group trip to Moab, Utah, takes a turn for the worst, Amanda thinks she’s lost Gregory for good and she’s wondering if anyone will love her like he did three years ago.

James constructs each interaction between Gregory and Amanda in the spirit of Austen’s impeccable dialogue. Gregory is reserved and careful, and Amanda is selfless and wants to do anything she can to make amends with the boy whose heart she tore to shreds.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this installment of James’ adaptation series is her development of Amanda. At first, she seems like your average teenage girl who is so easily affected by the opinion of her silly friends. But with each page, James delves deeper into Amanda’s character and readers will learn what a stark contrast there is between her and her partying parents and outrageously materialistic sister.

James reminds readers what family is — and what it isn’t. Amanda’s ability to overcome a family situation where no emphasis was placed on her happiness is nothing short of a miracle. James also weaves strong values from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into every chapter (although none of the characters are LDS), specifically when it comes to morality within teen relationships.

“Persuaded” is by far James’ best novel of the series. It’s clever, funny and romantic, however. Teens, adults and Austen lovers alike will love this adaptation. The characters are true to those they were inspired by, and the spark between Gregory and Amanda is as bright as the spark between any of Austen’s characters. As the readers finish the last page of “Persuaded,” they won’t be able to wait to see what James is going to write next.

Email: orton.caitlin@gmail.com

Twitter: @caitorton

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