just what it sounds like…reading as a religion

An Evening with Brontë, or Why My Birthday was Super Awesome!

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

So, I haven’t been around and there is a sad reason why.  I’ve been reading a lot, but it’s all been pretty mediocre.   And I don’t want to share mediocre with my loyal readers.  But, all that’s about to change.  Friday was my birthday and I decided to celebrate in my own way.  I read two FABULOUS books!  Bonus: They both have ties to the brilliant Brontë sisters (and covers that irk me.)

First, I want to share Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF.  This debut novel was written by the author when she was a 17-year old senior in high school.  I have crazy respect for her for that.  Anyway, 17-year old protagonist Bianca Piper is the DUFF or so she is is called by school playboy, Wesley.  Wesley tells her the DUFF is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend and every group has one.  Even though B hates everything about Wesley and is way too smart to fall for his game, pressures in her life cause her to seek distraction in the form of an enemies with benefits relationship with him.  As she tries so hard to run away from her problems, Bianca may find one more thing she can’t handle…somewhere or someone that makes her comfortable and happy.

Bianca is an awesomely entertaining protagonist…totally brash and off-color and so real for it.  I love that she’s not afraid to tell Wesley exactly what she thinks of him.  She’s also not afraid to admit that girls can use guys just as easily as guys use girls.  She has this crass wit that will leave you doubled over in laughter.  The relationship between Bianca and Wesley is painfully beautiful in its intense teenage emotion.  The author’s voice is highly believable and relatable to any person who has experienced the poisonous nature of teenage emotion and the feeling that life is burying you.  Readers will find themselves rooting for Bianca to find peace with her self and to find serenity in the chaos of her life.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

While I often read what some refer to as Pop Tart books, this novel is pretty intelligent.  Fans of classic literature will find well-placed allusions and allegory to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.  I will warn, however, that this book does not stray from bluntness.  I am quite against censoring what people are exposed to, but for those who care–the language and sexual content in this novel would probably earn it an R-rating.

Look for The DUFF to hit stores in early September.  On a side note, I have to share my thoughts about the book’s cover.  The final cover showcases a freckle-faced dirty blonde with too-blue eyeshadow and a big bubblegum bubble.  After reading this book, I have to say this just doesn’t fit Bianca to me.  Bianca is harsh and edgy and this cover just screams early Britney Spears.  Bianca is not a tween-queen wannabe.  I wish they would have stuck with the cover on my ARC.  I thought this cover was gorgeous.  The cover model with dark hair, blunt bangs, and no makeup seems much more appropriate.  Her pursed red lips and piercing blue eyes have this perfect combination of loneliness with a tough exterior.  But hey, cover design isn’t up to me.

Jane by April Lindner

Jane by April Lindner

On to a book with a much bigger and obvious Brontë connection–Jane by April Lindner.  This novel is presented as a modern retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.  Given that it would be a very subjective topic, I will not address whether classics should be retold or whether this a good retelling.  I am just going to share my thoughts about the book on its own.  I LOVED IT! I could not put this one down, which was so welcome after reading a string of mediocre titles.

Jane Moore is down on her luck.  A tragic accident claimed her parents’ lives and forced her to drop out of a prestigious college.  She goes to a nanny agency in search of work, so that she may save up the money to go back to school.  Being intelligent and unphased by popular culture, she becomes the perfect candidate for a position at wealthy rockstar, Nico Rathburn’s, estate.  Once at Thornfield Park, she quickly develops a close bond with Nico’s daughter, Maddy, and in turn Nico, himself.  In a world that seems perfect from the outside, Jane is forced to confront the many secrets hidden inside.  Jane must decide what it means to be successful in life and what she’s willing to give for love.

Jane is an admirable protagonist.  She is independent and level-headed, always doing what she thinks is right and doing what she has to do for herself.  I love how she calls Nico on his crap (he does too.)  Readers will enjoy watching Jane soften and open up to those around her.  There are many lessons about life and love to be learned along with Jane as she finds her way in the world.  Nico is equally as likable.  A girl can’t help but be intrigued by a sexy, tortured rock star.  Plus, he’s adorably loving of his daughter.  Female readers will find themselves swooning over Nico and wishing they were Jane.

I thought that the writing of this book was refreshingly intelligent and well-worded.  I enjoyed being challenged by the vocabulary, but that might be my nerdy side coming out.  It was also deeply beautiful and moving.  I found myself crying on many occasions and overwhelmed with emotion throughout.  Fans of romance will enjoy this modern classic.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Jane is coming to a store near you in October.  On a cover note here, as well, my ARC cover was plain–a pink title on a solid pastel blue background.  Amazon shows a cover with a girl in a sweater and flowy skirt walking on a foggy plain at dusk.  I hope they change this cover.  If not, please don’t be fooled by this photo!  It is more reminiscent of the original Jane Eyre, than the rock and roll retelling in Lindner’s Jane. Jane Moore is a rock star’s nanny in New England.  She does not go running forlornly across the plain. EVER.

All in all, it was a good birthday!  I especially enjoyed curling up in bed with these two great reads.  I highly suggest you check them out when they are released.  Happy reading!

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