It’s no surprise that I enjoyed The Trouble With Flirting – after all, it’s a retelling of Mansfield Park, my favorite Jane Austen novel. What did come as a shock was just how MUCH I enjoyed it. I love, love, LOVE this book, and I want you to love it too.
Here are the things you need to know about The Trouble With Flirting:
It’s set at a summer theater camp for high school students. Franny Pearson, our protagonist, is suckered into spending her summer with her stodgy aunt working in Mansfield College’s costume department. As you might imagine, a theater program full of aspiring teen actors has no shortage of colorful characters. The zany kids and the melodrama that they bring are part of what makes this book so much fun; LaZebnik’s portrayal of the theater world is so spot-on that it’s almost comical. There’s the drama of people not getting their coveted roles, or wanting to have a say in their costume design, or being upset that their crush is running lines with their rival. It brought back memories of my own theater days and kept me smiling throughout.
Franny is an utter delight. Hilarious, smart, and entertaining as hell, I couldn’t have asked for a better heroine than Franny Pearson. She’s one of those characters who’s always up for meeting new people and trying new things, which allows her to be drawn into interesting scenarios and relationships. She’s easygoing and fun, and even when she isn’t thrilled about a situation she takes it in stride and tries to make the best of it. She approaches all things with humor and directness and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s also flawed, like all great characters, which adds to her believability.
There are great romantic twists and turns. I was positively giddy over the romance in this book. There’s a love triangle with two guys who are each appealing and multi-dimensional; relationships peppered with humor, banter, and actual conversations; and dates that are fun, sweet, and sexy. Best of all, the relationships aren’t predictable. The title, cover, and synopsis may make The Trouble With Flirting sound like light-hearted fluff, but there’s more to this book than summer flings and casual romance. LaZebnik is able to flout clichés and take the plot and characters down unexpected paths, making the romance that much more rewarding.
It’s gut-bustingly funny. Franny has a wicked sense of humor, as does Harry, and in scenes where they play off each other LaZebnik had me laughing so hard I was close to tears. I was so charmed by their exchanges that I couldn’t stop smiling. The little quips, observations, and tongue-in-cheek comments kept me laughing almost constantly; I’m talking giggles, snickers, and even outright guffaws. Here are just a couple of quotes to highlight this point:
“I want to ask the guy up front if he has any antique books about the care and feeding of dogs. My mother collects them.”
“Really?” Isabella says. “My mother collects diamond bracelets.”
“My mother collects headache medications,” I say.
“I’m fairly hopeful you’ll survive this injury, Franny.”
“Unless gangrene sets in.”
“Gangrene always sets in,” he says darkly.
“What are you talking about?” asks Julia as they all gather around us again. “No one gets gangrene anymore.”
“They do in old books. If Franny were a Hemingway heroine or something, gangrene would set in and she’d lose her leg. Or her life.”
“But I’d be very attractive on my deathbed,” I add.
LaZebnik is a master of writing teenage relationships. She excels at capturing the camaraderie of a bunch of theater kids thrown together for the summer. Every scene involving Franny and her friends feels organic and right, whether they’re taking a trip to the beach, eating lunch, or simply hanging out in the student lounge. It’s the little details that make the relationships ring true – the playful nudges, the bickering and teasing, the way Franny’s friends crowd together and sprawl on top of each other on the common room couch.
It’s impossible not to have a great time reading The Trouble With Flirting. I was charmed, delighted, and surprised by this Mansfield Park retelling, and it will be a while before I stop grinning whenever I think about it.