Jenni James has done it again — her newest installment in the Jane Austen Diaries is a cute, funny and beautifully crafted addition to the teen literature genre.
Like her other books in the series, "Emmalee" gives Austen’s "Emma" a modern, teenage twist. Emmalee Bradford thinks she has love down to a science; she touts herself as an impeccable matchmaker, but in reality few, if any, of her matches pan out.
When she decides to make Hannah her new best friend, she gives her a makeover, both in her social life and style. Emmalee tries to make Hannah a match, but each time Hannah gets hurt or tired of the game. First she tries to match Hannah with Elton, but after a nasty turn of events, Elton shows his true brutish colors and leaves Emmalee wondering how she could be so blind.
But her blindness isn’t isolated to her matches: Emmalee is completely clueless to her own love life and doesn’t see her perfect match right in front of her. From the beginning of the novel, Emmalee’s chemistry with Chase Anderson, an older boy she looks at like a brother, is undeniable and will have readers cheering for the two throughout the story.
James’ heroine is not without flaws. She’s stubborn, snobbish and often immature. Having always gotten exactly what she wanted, Emmalee is whiny at times, but her flaws make her human and endearing. She’s young and frivolous, but finally comes into her own when she realizes her mistakes.
James trickles in characters from previous installments, and it gives devoted readers a glimpse into the current lives of Farmington’s finest. Overall, “Emmalee” flows more freely and easily than many of James’ past novels. The story itself is believable and mimics the attitude and experiences of an 18-year-old girl perfectly.
Emmalee doesn’t have the same subtle religious overtone as James’ other novels in the series. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without good morals and standards. The characters are clean, and James writes the relationships and dialogue in a way that might make parents wonder why today’s teen literature needs anything more than holding hands and innocent kisses.
With the occasional "As if!" the story can often be reminiscent of the famous Emma film adaptation “Clueless.” However, "Emmalee" takes on a life of its own, one that Austen could be proud of.