I first encountered Ibi Zoboi a couple years ago when I picked up American Street from my library on impulse. I loved it, and when I heard she would be coming out with a YA, all-black version of Pride and Prejudice, I was immediately excited.
I decided to listen to the audiobook, which I highly recommend, but the hardcover is gorgeous, so you should definitely check that out if you haven’t already.
The story is told from the perspective of Zuri Benitez and it starts with the Darcy family moving into the big, recently renovated house across the street. There’s already a lot of speculation surrounding the new inhabitants, with the dominant theory being that they’re hip hop stars.
Zuri decides from the beginning that she’s not interested. She loves her neighborhood and doesn’t want anything to change it and she’s afraid this new bougie family will do just that. Her dream is to get into Howard University on scholarship, but for her, moving up doesn’t mean moving out. She wants to come back home as soon as she graduates.
But there’s a big summer block party happening and the whole neighborhood is going, including the Darcy boys. Nothing happens at the party to change Zuri’s mind about them, but her older sister, Janae, starts getting cozy with Ainsley. Zuri isn’t thrilled about the match, but she recognizes how happy it makes her sister, so she’s happy for her, even though she doesn’t entirely trust either of the Darcy boys.
Willoughby comes in the form of Warren, a cute boy Zuri goes on a couple dates with. He went to the same school Darius went to and has a story about how he got into a fight and almost got expelled when Darius didn’t have his back.
Darius, of course, has a different story. Warren took nude photos of Darcy’s sister, Georgia, and posted them on Instagram, which is why Georgia goes to a different school. By the way, I have to say one of the things I missed in this book was getting the chance to meet Georgia. Although we did get to meet “Lady Catherine” in the form of Darius’s disapproving grandmother, who insults Zuri’s neighborhood to her face.
Darcy then offers to give Zuri a ride home and they end up talking and even kissing, which I guess is supposed to be the YA version of the first proposal. But then Darius admits he talked Ainsley into breaking up with Janae because of something her mom said at a party that made it seem like Janae was just after the Darcy money.
So Zuri is mad at him for a while, but then they find out that her younger sister is drunk at a party with Warren, so they set out to rescue her together. Not only does Darius help, but so does Carrie who knows about Warren’s reputation, so even though she doesn’t like Zuri because she wants Darius for herself, she’s still looking out for Zuri’s sister, which I thought was awesome.
The book ends with Zuri and Darius getting together, but because it’s YA, it’s more of a HFN ending than HEA, and Zuri is still planning on getting that scholarship to Howard. I also have to say how much I loved that Zuri had a plan for her life that doesn’t involve a man. Obviously that wasn’t a practical choice for Austen’s characters, but it makes sense for an updated version. There’s even a chapter where Zuri goes to visit the Howard campus and asks what she can do to improve her odds of getting in. I have a friend who went to Howard who read the book and was able to point out how she knows Zoboi never attended Howard, but she gets points for doing her research.
Ultimately, I was just glad to get an awesome, well-written update of one of my favorite books. I loved seeing Zoboi take elements of Regency society and update them to the present, and I loved getting introduced to characters that I felt I already knew.
One glaring difference between this book and Austen’s book was the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet don’t appear to be in love anymore, if they ever were. But Mr. and Mrs. Benitez are very clearly still in love, even though they maintain the personalities of their original counterparts. Zoboi was very clear about that and I thought it worked really well, since divorce wasn’t really an option in Austen’s time.
What did you read this week? Any other new takes on lovable classics I should know about?