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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2011
Cute cute cute! Epic Fail is freaking adorable and fun - a perfect pick-me-up on a rainy, sad day.

When I first started reading Epic Fail, I had no idea it was a modern take on Pride and Prejudice until someone told me, but then I thought about it and I definitely saw the similarities as I was reading. This is awesome on two levels - I love Pride and Prejudice, but Claire LaZebnik was clever/talented enough to make the story her own without overdoing the retelling. I never once thought "yeah, yeah, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy already did this" - I was too invested in what was happening to Elise and Derek.

A lot of the elements in Pride and Prejudice would have been tough to translate to modern times, but the setting for Epic Fail was very crafty. A prep school in LA suited the story perfectly.

I liked Elise's character a lot - I thought she was witty and clever, just like Elizabeth. I must admit, I had no real affinity for Derek until the end, but that's true with Mr. Darcy as well.

Overall, I loved reading Epic Fail. It definitely brightened by day, and even though it was one of those books where I knew exactly how it would end, I couldn't stop reading - it was too much fun getting there. Epic Fail is a fun and adorable book, and I definitely suggest it to anyone in need of a pick-me-up.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
Loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Claire LaZebnik's Epic Fail is a wonderfully re-imagined homage to the classic love story of the headstrong, opinionated Elizabeth and the intimidating, aloof Mr. Darcy. Retold in a modern day setting for young adults, LaZebnik successfully captures both the magic of Austen's story as well as the social differences and hierarchy of 19th century England against the backdrop of a Los Angeles prep school and American Hollywood "nobility."

If the setting of this book is perfect, the characters are even more so. Austen was a master at capturing the essence of people - their foibles, vices, inconsistencies, etc. Her works were very much a commentary on the society of her time, the good, the bad and the ironic. LaZebnik has taken this and created a whole new set of characters that work within her modern setting, who are also are a social product of their era, but who still retain the same basic attributes of their 19th century counterparts. The similarities are just so cleverly executed and discovering them was part of what made this book so enjoyable.

Mr. Benton & Dr. Gardiner (aka- Mr. & Mrs. Bennet) are still the eccentric odd couple. Mr. Benton is a scholarly man who spends a lot of time in his study reading and bemoaning the decline of America's value system. Dr. Gardiner is the new principal of the Benton girls' school, fashion-challenged, slightly petty and starstruck by the social status of her students' parents. Juliana is the quintessential Jane - kind, good, quick to believe the best in people and so sweet. Her love interest, Chase, differs a bit from Austen's Bingley but for the better- he's a bit more assertive and not quite as ineffectual while still being very friendly and kind. Layla is a perfect Lydia - a 14 year-old social climber who is boy-crazy and who is completely unaware of what is appropriate and what is not.

Elise, the protagonist of this story, is a brilliant tribute to Elizabeth Bennet. Fiercely independent, smart, practical, lovably random with her own quirky and wry sense of humor, she is at times blinded by her own assumptions. However, she is also wise and mature enough to admit when she assumes incorrectly. She is a keen observer of human nature and it's interesting to view the cast of characters through her intelligent and discerning eyes.

Derek, the male lead and main love interest, probably had the hardest role to fulfill - that of the inestimable and beloved Mr. Darcy. And he does fill those giant shoes quite well. Standoffish, terse, presumed to be arrogant and unfriendly, yet at times heartachingly vulnerable, Derek presents a confusing and infuriating challenge to Elise. Her sister and best friend, Juliana, has just fallen for Derek's best friend, Chase. As a result, the two of them are continually (and awkwardly) thrown together in all kinds of social situations. As Derek and Elise get to one another better, they have the opportunity to be witness to each other's true character. And in the end, they may realize that their opinions of one another are not as accurate as they both initially thought.

At this point in the review, it's important to note that while this story is a self-described, re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice, LaZebnik has not merely retold the same story. She has taken the bare bones that Austen provided and has created something new and unique that Austen fans and the unfamiliar reader alike will enjoy. Homage or not, there are many things that remain universal that readers will appreciate. The romance is sweet. The relationships feel genuine. The girl/sister drama is just so spot-on and hilarious. The characters are well-developed and unique. The teen issues addressed are relevant. Epic Fail is a beautifully written novel and, personally, it satisfies that Austen craving that surfaces every once in awhile.

Overall, Epic Fail = a monumental success.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
If, like me, you are such a lover of all of the works of Miss Jane Austen, then you have probably developed a secondary affection for those novels or films that homage the great one. That was one reason why I adored "Bridget Jones Diary" back in the day, and the film "Clueless". This book fits in totally with those two, as it brings Pride and Prejudice to the city where it most belongs, Los Angeles. Seriously, can you think of any town with more "Pride?" Or for that matter, prejudice, as all of us judge the icons that town creates every time we stand at the check-out line frowning at the tabloids.

Well maybe that's just me.

Epic Fail is funny, kind, sweet and just a complete page turner. Because you know it's an homage to Miss Jane, you know it's going to have a wonderfully romantic happy ending, but man you are tense the whole way towards it, just as you would be when reading the original. The dialogue is pitch perfect in this book, and you will care deeply about every single person in this book. You'll hate Chelsea, you'll swoon over Derek, you will come to feel that they are real people in your life who must be DEALT WITH. Run, don't walk, the summer is almost over but there's a lawn chair and a big tall glass of iced tea just waiting for you and this book to show up and start the page turning! LOVED THIS BOOK!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2011
Derek Edwards is handsome, rich, arrogant and moody. Everyone wants to be near him. Everyone would kill to be him. Whatever he wants, he gets. With just one exception. Elise Benton.

Elise refuses to be just another star-struck groupie, hanging on his every word, catering to his every need. This full-of-himself son of a Hollywood celebrity is definitely not worthy of her attention.

Besides, she'd much rather spend time with Webster Grant. He's cute, nice, friendly and humble. In a school filled with the rich, privileged and entitled, Webster just might be the only person she can relate to. He really couldn't be more perfect.

But first impressions can often be misleading. And if she isn't careful, Elise might just let her pride and prejudice blind her to the truth and prevent her from finding out who is truly worth fighting for.


While the main character, Elise Benton, may have felt like everything she did was an epic fail, this book is anything but. From start to finish, Epic Fail is charming, fun and hugely entertaining. And with such a quick pace, this is an easy one-sit-read.

Elise is uprooted from her quiet hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts when her mother takes a job as principal at Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles where the wealthy send their children. Moving across the country was difficult enough, but having to attend the same school where her mother works borders on cruelty.

Surrounded by the children of celebrity, Elise tries to keep a low profile. But when her sister, Juliana, meets the handsome and outgoing Chase Baldwin, best friend to Derek Edwards, the son of one of Hollywood's most popular actresses, staying out of the spotlight is no longer an option.

With the entire school practically bowing down to him, moods and all, Elise wants nothing to do with him. Just because he is rich, popular and handsome doesn't make him a good person. And if he thinks she'll fall in line with the rest of the school, he's wrong.

So when she meets Webster Grant, who seems to be everything that Derek isn't - nice, funny and down-to-earth - she is quick to befriend him. Even when she's warned that hanging out with Webster will destroy her social status.

But Elise soon learns that appearances can be deceiving and that fame and money don't always make someone the bad guy, it's sometimes the lack of them than does.

This modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice is Author Claire LaZebnik's debut young adult novel. Not only did the author bring the story into the present, she changed the setting to the Los Angeles Westside, home to Hollywood's elite.

While this must have been no easy task, she accomplished this brilliantly. The Los Angeles backdrop was different enough to make this story not feel like a carbon copy of the original, and she incorporated the ideas from the classic into her story in a way that felt natural and not forced. Even though this is based on Jane Austen's classic work, the story and characters are very much this author's creation and are wonderful in their own right.

And for readers who haven't read Austen's book, they won't feel at a loss while reading Epic Fail. While the ideas are taken from the original as a basis for this book, their usage is subtle. And without knowing in advance that this story is a modern adaptation of the classic, a comparison might not be made.

Elise Benton and her family are outsiders to this world where the students at Coral Tree Prep have the money and the power, not the teachers. And where all it would take is just one call to their parents to cost Elise's mother her job...or worse.

Elise is a strong-willed, opinionated, but incredibly likable main character. While at first she lets her preconceived notions get in the way of seeing Derek Edwards for who he really is, she isn't so stubborn that she is unwilling to change her mind. And Derek is her perfect match. He is just as judgmental and hard-headed as she is, and makes just as many mistakes along the way.

With an eclectic group of secondary characters, from Elise's good-hearted older sister Jules, to her quirky, star-struck and overprotective mother, Epic Fail is an absolutely delightful, fast-paced and thoroughly engaging contemporary young adult novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Unfortunately for me, this book lived up to its title. Maybe that was a bit harsh... there were some points in the story that made me smile and laugh but for the most part, I was rolling my eyes. For the most part, I was disappointed by this book and a bit irritated at the stretches that the author took to make it fit as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

If you guys have been around my blog at all since December, you know that I have a serious love (obsession? okay, obsession) with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and an interest in any kind of reimagining, retelling, or spin off there is. And, for the most part, I've had a really great experience with these stories. I was so excited to see that Amazon was featuring Epic Fail as one of its monthly deals for $2.99 and immediately bought it because it was the first YA P&P story that I've come across.

Mostly, Epic Fail came off as an unrealistic contemporary romance. I felt that LaZebnik tried to force the characters and plot in certain ways so that they fit the story arc of P&P but at the same time, got a lot of it wrong. For instance, Elise's parents. Elise's dad comes off as an intellectual snob who is more concerned that his daughter is getting involved with a classmate because of his celebrity status than how she feels about the situation... where as the original Mr. Bennet ultimately cared for his daughters' well being and happiness. Elise's mom is the principal of the prestigious Coral Tree Prep who alludes to the fact that she has her doctorate in education. Rather than being a well educated and sensible woman, she often lapses into hysteria over who her daughters are dating. I felt as though LaZebnik wrote two completely different women and smashed them together to make it work as a P&P story.

Another issue (and I'll stop after this one) was what LaZebnik did with the Bingley-Jane separation story line. In the original work, Darcy and Caroline Bingley separate Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet because they believed her status to be inferior and thus unsuited for a man of his stature and also because her family was simply improper. The key here? Both Darcy and Caroline work to separate the couple. LaZebnik decided to place the whole blame on Caroline (named Chelsea). Derek/Darcy had nothing to do with it - no input, no knowledge, nothing... and this really turned me off from the story. The beauty of Pride and Prejudice is that both Lizzy and Darcy begin as flawed and make serious mistakes, work through them all, experience a ton of growth, and ultimately come back together as better versions of themselves thanks to the other. By altering the original story so much, LaZebnik totally lost the growth that could have occurred... and I hate to say it, but the story often felt two dimensional because of it.

Overall, it was an okay book. If you're looking for a good Pride and Prejudice retelling, I wouldn't recommend this one... and I think that was my biggest problem. I went into this book expecting one thing and did not have an open mind to it. It was not terrible... it just wasn't for me. I think that young audiences who are looking for a way to get into the Pride and Prejudice story would probably benefit most from it - just remember that the characters are very loosely based on the originals!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
The synopsis of the book showed promise, and it definitely intrigued me. So, I bought the book, read it, and could not have been more disappointed. The main characters had little to no depth, and the supporting characters had even less than that. The progression between Elise and Derek was so painfully slow and boring that i skipped many parts of the book. When Elise and Derek FINALLY start to show show a promising relationship, the author abruptly ends the book. And when I say "abruptly", I mean ABRUPTLY! It ended so quickly that I thought I somehow accidently skipped ahead on my kindle. This book was absolutely an EPIC FAIL and I recommend it to no one.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2011
This is the second Pride & Prejudice modern re-telling I've read in the last week, and this is by far the stronger of the two.

A lot of the cosmetic changes work. LaZebnik trades the insular and gossipy country village for an insular and gossipy Los Angeles prep school. The hero's "10,000 a year" becomes "movie star parents". And Mrs. Bennet's rush to get her daughters married has evolved into being a flighty, starstruck principal. (Though there's an odd disciplinarian streak to the character that doesn't work. Mrs. Bennet wouldn't know tough love if it...)

Everyone is present except the _____shire militia, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine. Other characters pop up and are so completely underutilized as to make one wonder why they're here at all: Mrs. Gardiner turns up as a cousin in a scene so brief, I forgot who she was when she reappeared at the end of the book. Georgia/Georgiana is even more of a walk-on role here than in the original.

The largest weakness of Epic Fail is that the tension between Derek and Elise never crackles the same way as Darcy and Elizabeth's did. Whereas Lizzie's disdain for Darcy is constant and cringe-inducing, Elise is fairly friendly with Derek. She never completely shuts him down in favor of Webster/Wickham. She does call him out, but even that feels more like casual disappointment than crushing disdain. In the original, you could feel Lizzie's outrage as well as Darcy's response. The same scene here is flat. As a result, when the two of them get together, there's no feeling of "finally!". It just feels like more of the same.

I do regret the price of the book a little, however, I had a little birthday money to burn, and this was my splurge. Any other time of year, I would have requested it from the library list and waited, which is exactly what I recommend others do.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2012
AFter all the great reviews I thought I was going to have a good read, however I thought the book lacked depth and detail. Some of the characters really annoyed me such as Layla. And was it me or did this book end really suddenly?? Or i guess I should point out... there was no ending. I actually went and searched to see if there was sequel to come. It was because of this reason I had to give it 2 stars. The relationship between Elise and Derrick was... cute but there was only a few pages at the end that told their story once they were in a relationship and suddenly it was over. Was not worth $6.00. I'm really disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2012
This is a completely mediocre book. The premise is interesting enough-if a bit overdone. You know, amazingly handsome and popular boy acts like a complete, mysterious jerk to the totally average girl, they are thrown into situations together, then they fall in love. I was hoping that the Austen-influenced storyline might freshen it up, but if comes off as just another YA romance. Frankly, I would be embarrassed to connect these two novels.
Elise is annoying, and doesn't have any of the witty charm her Austen counterpart, Elizabeth, had. LaZebnik attempts to give her some clever one-liners, but they end up falling flat. I actually cringe when I read Elise's attempts at humor.
The rest of the cast of characters function well enough as flatter, more boring versions of their Austen characters, except Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. When LaZebnik tries to show Elise and her father's close relationship, it seems cheesy and unrealistic.
The characters are disappointments, but they're not the worst part of the book. The thing I just couldn't get past was the writing. I think Elise was supposed to have an independent, sassy voice. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Not only are her jokes not funny, but the dialogue is stilted and completely unrealistic. The only word I have to describe LaZebnik's writing is cheesy.
All in all, if you are a young adult reader on the lower end of your teens who is looking for a simple, mindless book to alleviate the boredom, this will probably work. I mean, it's not necessarily an awful book, it's just not very good. But if you are looking for a true modern take on Jane Austen-including intelligent banter and intriguing characters-then this is not for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2012
Let me start by saying I did like this book. It was a fun easy read. The h was a very likeable character; witty, smart, and not some tragic story. That being said, there were a few things I could have lived without. First, Layla. Couldn't stand her. I remember being 14 and sure don't remember being the little snot that she was. And seriously, are there parents really like that?? Can't text or use a cell phone in a house at 17 years old. Not too mention the mother jumping all over the bandwagon of shmoozing to Derek and his mom. Seemed a little much. So much more could have been done with this story. I absolutely despised the ending. No cleanup concerning Webster, no talk of how it's going to work between Derek and Elise when he goes to the East coast for college. Sorry but I just hate a cliffhanger like that. Great concept, some really good characters, but overall I think more could have been done. When I reached the end of the book I seriously thought I missed a few chapters and went back to check.
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