When Jane Austen set about writing Emma, she said that she was writing a protagonist she expected no one would like but herself. L.C. Rosen seems to have taken the opposite approach in writing Emmett, a queer YA adaptation of Austen’s perennial matchmaker novel.
The titular character is the guy that everybody likes: handsome, smart, aware of his privilege, and determined to be “nice”. (Seriously, you could turn Emmett into a ripper of a drinking game if you just take a sip every time you see the word “nice”.) This niceness extends to setting up his friends and f-buddies with their romantic matches. What could possibly go wrong?
I liked the setting of Emmett, the swanky Highbury Academy in a wealthy neighbourhood, where everyone drives a hybrid car and art exhibitions are “interactive exhibits”. It’s a nice nod to Clueless, which (aside from being based on the same source text) has clearly had a strong influence on Rosen’s writing.
I worry, though, that I might be a bit too old and hardened to be the ideal reader for Emmett. Even though the teenage characters are on the mature side, having sex and drinking at parties and all the other stuff that gets the pearl-clutchers up in arms, it all felt very Young to me. Emmett has the kind of deluded self-confidence you find exclusively in earnest well-off teenage boys. As much as it wasn’t quite for me, I can see how Emmett would be a fine, cutesy read for young adult romantics getting their first taste of Austen-esque stories.
Many thanks to my friends at Allen & Unwin for sending through a copy for review!
Buy Emmett on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)