Rated Reads

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood

by Abby McDonald

Rated: Moderate

Sisters Grace and Hallie couldn’t seem more different. Hallie is an actress, bound for Juilliard after high school, who wears her feelings on her sleeve — both sleeves and her pants cuffs, too, really. Grace, two years younger, is kind and bright and solicitous of her theatrical sister and her artist mother; she keeps her feelings to herself and just tries to keep things on an even keel.

The girls’ father left their family two years earlier for a younger woman and a busier, more affluent lifestyle, marrying the wealthy and shallow Portia. Then he had a son with her. The change in their happy home life had been difficult enough, but when their father suddenly dies, their grief and anger is compounded. Add to that the fact that the lack of a will ends up leaving the girls and their mom without their old house in San Francisco or any reliable income, and life is suddenly completely upside-down.

Of course, Hallie cries endlessly and Grace quietly goes about her business, trying to figure out how they will survive — never mind that she’s only 16. She does find some comfort and friendship with a nice guy named Theo, who just happens to be brother to the “wicked stepmother.” Despite all the time they spend hanging out together after her father’s funeral, though, Grace just doesn’t know where they stand. Are they just friends? Or could Theo actually have feelings for her, as she seems to have for him?

When a relative of their mother offers to let them live in the guest house of his huge home in Beverly Hills, their problems are solved — at least the immediate ones. Grace isn’t happy to leave the home she’s always known and loved, and Hallie, of course, cries and laments her situation even more. They’ll both have to start over in a foreign place where they know no one. And Theo goes off to college at Stanford, while Grace wishes she had not been so afraid to show her feelings to him before they parted.

Hallie soon meets a musician with a poet’s soul who seems to be everything she’s ever wanted, and she falls hard. Grace, meanwhile, worries about their relationship getting so serious so quickly but tries to support her sister and just make a new life for herself, hard as it is. Still, she does miss Theo.

Sense and Sensibility gets yet another update in this young adult book that’s light and fluffy and just right for a beach read. It’s cute and fairly fun but will be easily forgotten once you’ve finished it, unlike Jane Austen’s story.

Rated: Moderate. There is some mild language and occasional moderate language throughout the book. There is little in the way of sexual content except some brief talk about it (the emotionally absent mother tells her 18-year-old daughter to just “be careful;” the Willoughby stand-in stays overnight, with the understanding that the characters are having sex; there are a few kissing scenes; it’s understood that the dad had an affair and got his lover pregnant before he left his wife and daughters). There is also some alcohol use; the older daughter goes out with friends to an exclusive club and ends up getting drunk.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
  • by Abby McDonald
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: