Jane Austen did not write romance novels; Jane Austen wrote social satire masquerading as romance, and Ibi Zoboi’s modern, young adult re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice is the only retelling I have ever read that actually captures that aspect Austen’s work instead of focusing only on the romance.
In Pride by Ibi Zoboi, the main character, Zuri Benitez, is proud of her family, her Afro-Latino roots, and her Brooklyn neighborhood. When the Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri isn’t blinded by their money and charm like her older sister, Janae is by Ainsley Darcy. Zuri sees straight through the Darcy’s–especially pretentious, pretty-boy Darius Darcy. No amount of charm can distract her from what they’re really doing–gentrifying her beloved neighborhood and wiping away everything she loves about her home.
Zuri was easily the most memorable part of the novel. There were times she grated on my nerves, but I think it’s a really good interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet’s character. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie was incredibly judgmental, but it was masked under the pretense of propriety. Set in modern society, that polite veneer is nonexistent, so there were times when Zuri was a bit abrasive, and I believe that’s true to a modern update of Lizzie’s character. As the story progresses, she deals with her anger and fear and grows from out of her pride and into an understanding young woman.
As an Austenite, reading this novel was an absolute delight. I was bouncing up and down with excitement as I discovered new characters and how Zoboi put her own twist on the originals; I had to refrain from texting my fellow Austenite friend so I wouldn’t spoil any of the fun surprises. Every time a new character was introduced, it was a game of who’s-who and seeing how Zoboi took a familiar and beloved character and changed them to fit into the modern world. These characters stand on their own, however; you don’t need to be familiar with Jane Austen in any way to connect with and fully enjoy these characters and the story.
Beyond the delightful and well-rounded characters, I really enjoyed the different cultures captured in this Brooklyn neighborhood. Zuri struggles with holding onto her love for her vibrant home while accepting that things–and people–change. The story follows not just the love-hate romance between her and Darius but also how Zuri grapples to accept that her neighborhood, the people around her, and her life are changing, especially since she’s reaching graduation and has to decide what to do with the rest of her life.
Pride follows the classic tale of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice all while including commentary on class structures, racial inequality, and cultural identity in America. This novel is a timely update on the beloved classic novel that all readers can enjoy, whether they are a die-hard Austenite or a young teen completely unfamiliar with the story.
I highly recommend Pride by Ibi Zoboi. It’s hands-down the best Pride and Prejudice retelling I’ve ever read, and the novel stands strongly on its own.
You’ll love this book if you like these themes:
- love triangles
- enemies to lovers
- family relationships
- sister relationships
- struggling with growing up/graduating high school
- class structures (haves vs. have nots)
- social justice (racial inequality)
- cultural identity
- classical retellings
- Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
This book is a great writing model for:
- how to modernize a classic while capturing the true essence of it and not just copying the plot structure or character names
- family dynamics and sibling relationships
- strong sense of setting
- first person limited
- present tense