Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Release date: June 24th, 2014
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
Series: No, unfortunately
Source: BEA 2014
Length: 400 pages
Rating: SQUEEEE!


 A modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice based on the Emmy Award-winning phenomenon, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

There is a great deal that goes into making a video blog. Lizzie Bennet should know, having become a YouTube sensation over the course of her year-long video diary project. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries chronicled Lizzie's life as a twenty-four-year-old grad student, struggling under a mountain of student loans and living at home with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. What may have started as her grad student thesis grew into so much more, as the videos came to inform and reflect her life and that of her sisters. When rich, handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie's viewers. Suddenly Lizzie—who always considered herself a fairly normal young woman—was a public figure. But not everything happened on-screen. Luckily for us, Lizzie kept a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet provides more character introspection as only a book can, with revelatory details about the Bennet household, including Lizzie's special relationship with her father, untold stories from Netherfield, Lizzie's thoughts and fears about life after grad school and becoming an instant web celebrity.

Written by Bernie Su, the series' executive producer, co-creator, head writer, and director, along with Kate Rorick, the novelist, TV writer, and consulting producer on the series, the novel features a journal-entry format and design, complementing the existing web series, while including plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like it's never been done before.

It's no small secret that the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is my most favoritest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which is my most favoritest novel in the world. I am incapable of reviewing The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, both a novelization and an expansion of the web series, as someone who is not a lifelong Janeite and a fangirl who frequently says, "I thought you were Chinese" when people walk unexpectedly into the room.
Basically, when I heard that this book was a thing, my reaction was pretty much:

For the uninitiated, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen about a grad student named Lizzie who decides to make a vlog all about her life. (First episode is here. You're welcome.) It's a brilliant modern update of the classic story, replacement marriage proposals with job offers and dismissive noble aunts with dismissive corporate investors and hot guys with... well, hot guys. There's sisterly bonding, hate to love, snark, and the very best version of Lydia Bennet that there ever was.

My lens is not exactly an unbiased lens, but let me tell you, from the point of view of a diehard LBD fangirl, you NEED this book in your life. All the Darcy scenes that happen off camera that you only see reenactments of or hear tidbits about? Like certain excursions in San Francisco? You see them in all their delightful glory, filtered through wonderfully snarky first person Lizzie. Best of all, you get to see Mr. Bennet, one of the characters who never made it onscreen, and see his wonderful relationship with his favorite daughter. Frankly, that's the very best part of this adaptation: the way it expands all the scenes we only got to see wee bits of in costume theater. Plus, there are charts! Cute little charts!

There are lots of direct tie-ins to videos, and you get to see Lizzie worry about the behind the scenes stuff as well.She talks a bit about stats, about the weirdness of notoriety, and the direct effect of it on her life and the lives of her sisters. It's all very meta and wonderful, and we get tons more Lydia and Jane, which is always lovely. While I do love me some Darcy, I feel like in this series and this book, the evolving relationships between the Bennet sisters is real the heart of the story and the most important element.

The book isn't perfect, though it's flaws were DEFINITELY softened by my fangirl squealing. Some of the writing, when not super funny and quippy, can get a leeeetle rough in spots (kill the dialogue tags. KILL THEM ALL). For some reason, a few of the most climactic scenes were told as direct transcripts of the videos, meaning we got no internal Lizzie monologue, NOR did we get the mannerisms of the actors to bring the words to life. I would have loved to hear those scenes filtered through some unreliable Lizzie thinking and to learn some extra insight into her state of mind at the time.

Plus, one or two characters just didn't pop in prose the way they did on camera, most notably Charlotte and Mrs. Bennet. I LOVE Charlotte on the show, but I didn't think the diary managed to capture her. And Mrs. Bennet, that OTT Southern lady obsessed with marrying off her daughters, isn't quite as eccentric as Lizzie portrays her in costume theater. Now, I know that's an exaggerated portrayal filtered through Lizzie's skewed perceptions, but the diary is also Lizzie-filtered (which makes it sound like a kind of drinking water), so I expected more from Mrs. Bennet.

HOWEVER. THE DIZZIE. THE DARCY LIZZIE. Which, let's be honest, is why we're here, isn't it?

Related: 'Ship Shape

More scenes, more awkward convos, more examples of SHIPPING PERFECTION. You get to see them talk during The Most Awkward Dance Ever (tm Charlotte Lu) and so much more. I read this on the plane home from BEA and squeed and thrashed and flailed until i got peevish looks from my seatmate. WHATEVER, GRUMPY OLD SNORING DUDE, LIZZIE AND DARCY ARE TAKING A TOUR OF SAN FRANCISCO TOGETHER. YOU WOULD FLAIL TOO. They are just as cute on the page as they are on the screen, and you get to see tons more evidence of their perfection. So many little scenes that could never have made it into the series are sketched out fully in the diary for us. It's like Christmas come early for fans of the show.

Now here are some gifs for reasons.

GAH, YES, FOCUS. Fooooocus. We were talking about a... a book, right? Some kind of book with words? And people? Sure, yeah,  go read it. Read do. Uh huh. *keeps Googling kissing Dizzie gifs*


  1. Ooo I just got a copy of this & now I'm even more excited to start it! I'm about half way through the videos, so I kind of wanted to wait until I was finished watching them to read this...but I know I will probably give in lol :) And thanks for the Dizzie gifs, THANK YOU!! ;)

    1. OOOO, no, I'd DEFINITELY recommend finished the videos before reading! This is much better as expansion material.

  2. Yes! More Lizzie and Darcy!!! (That's really all I have to contribute, so . . .)

  3. This was an awesome review! I missed out on this book at BEA (I was sooo sad) but then I checked Netgalley and it was there and I was approved yesterday for it! I started reading it ASAP and I'm loving it so far. Like you, I don't know how I can't love this book. But I am biased, and P&P is my favorite book ever, and I always like the retellings. And the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of my favorite adaptations too.

    So glad you loved it! And seriously the person next to you on the plane needs to deal! Dizzie in San Francisco is totally something that would get me squeeling!

  4. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FOCUS AFTER YOU PUT THE DIZZIE GIFS IN HERE, GILLIAN? HOW? (No, but for real, I went over to YouTube to watch my favorite Dizzie episodes again. AGAIN.) Anyway, I'm so thrilled to hear the book is perfect for LBD fans! I didn't snag it at BEA (boo!), but I do plan on buying it anyway, so there's that.

  5. THOSE GIFS. *Fails*
    Somehow I completely missed the memo that this book was at BEA. I mean, I don't think I love the show as much as you, but I'm very much looking forward to reading that book! Thank God it's coming out in just a couple of weeks. Your fangirling and your squeeing just make me even more excited. :D

  6. I just finished watching the vlog series and I am OBSESSED. Speaking of obsesses, your blog is gorgeous. Love it!
    I cannot wait until I get my hand son this book! So excited!


Note: comments on posts older than 90 days are automatically moderated, so they won't show up here immediately. Thanks for commenting! :)