Little Willow (slayground) wrote,
Little Willow

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Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

What can you do when your best friend is the most enthusiastic, passionate person you know?

Shake your head, laugh, and run right alongside her as she scurries from one new passion to another.

Ashleigh is an utterly exhuberant sophomore who grabs onto a new interest every few weeks and throws herself into it head-first. Julie, her best friend and next-door neighbor since childhood, has supported and weathered through all of Ashleigh's phases. She is six inches taller and much quieter than her friend, preferring a good book to an escapade.

One day, Ashleigh finally reads one of Julie's favorite books, Pride and Prejudice. Suddenly, Ashleigh decides that life would be grand if it were more like Austen's works. She dons long skirts, uses Victorian phrases, and plans to crash a formal dance at an all-boys school. She talks Julie into coming along with her, though they do not have tickets nor formal invitations.

As luck would have it, a Mysterious Stranger - the cute boy Julie has seen in town half a dozen times but never really spoken to - happens to be there. His name is Parr, and he is quite the gentleman. By the end of the night, Ashleigh is smitten with Parr. Ever the selfless one, Julie doesn't tell her best friend that she likes Parr too. When Ashleigh and Julie get involved in a contemporary musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Parr's school, things get even more complicated - and funny, and fun.

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman is, in a word, adorable. This is a sweet story about friendship, families, and following your heart. The characters are good kids, and you'll root for them. The story is good, clean fun, with a touch of its own slang (ie "ig" or "igsome" for someone or something the girls don't find appealing). It is G-rated, so younger teens may read it, and it has plenty of literary references to the works of Austen and Shakespeare, so adults will enjoy it.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the story is told through the voice of the loyal sidekick. Julie is a fiercely loyal friend and daughter who juggles her schoolwork, her friend's whims, and her divorced parents' new lives, all with a good spirit - something which is rare in modern fiction. She has a great inner monologue, related through the first person narration. For example, every time she thinks of a witty retort but holds her tongue instead of vocalizing the snark, she banks a dollar in her mind.

I am a very enthusiastic person myself, so I related to that aspect of Ashleigh's personality. I do not go through phases like she does, however. Luckily, Ashleigh never completely forgets the things she liked; though she moves on to her Next Big Thing with gusto, she might later incorporate an earlier hobby into it later.

Last but not least, in spite of the fact that one should never judge a book by its cover, this particular cover deserves some kudos. Ashleigh is shown in the vintage dress she wears to that fateful dance, jumping in the air, holding a copy of Pride and Prejudice in her hand. Slyly, the paperback pictured is the Penguin Classics edition; Enthusiasm novel is published by Penguin Putnam's teen imprint.

Whether you are an adult or a teenager, whether you are a Julie or an Ashleigh, Enthusiasm will steal your heart and make you smile.

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Visit Polly Shulman's website.
Tags: books, cybils, reviews

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