Based on the Emmy Award-winning “genius” (The Guardian) web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this is a new novel starring Lizzie’s spunky sister Lydia as she navigates the joys and pitfalls of becoming an adult in the digital age.
Before her older sister, Lizzie, started her wildly popular vlog, Lydia was just a normal twenty-year-old plotting the many ways she could get away with skipping her community college classes and finding the perfect fake ID. She may not have had much direction, but she loved her family and had plenty of fun. Then Lizzie’s vlog turned the Bennet sisters into Internet sensations, and Lydia basked in the attention as people watched, debated, tweeted, tumblr’d, and blogged about her life. But not all attention is good…
After her ex-boyfriend, George Wickham took advantage of Lydia’s newfound web-fame, betrayed her trust, and destroyed her online reputation, she’s no longer a naïve, carefree girl. Now, Lydia must work to win back her family’s trust and respect and find her place in a far more judgmental world.
Told in Lydia’s distinctive, eccentric, and endearing voice, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet picks up right where The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet left off and “offers a fresh take on Pride and Prejudice without ruining it” (The Washington Post, on The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet). Featuring fresh twists, wonderful new characters, and scores of hilarious texts, doodles, and tweets, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet takes you behind the webcam and into the lives of your favorite sisters in a way that’s sure to satisfy existing fans and delight new ones.
The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet is a love letter to fans of the wildly popular webseries, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. There’s no other way to put it. In the Acknowledgments, the authors say that the book would not have existed if people hadn’t voiced their love, affection, and concern for this version of Lydia Bennet. So it seems absolutely right that Lydia should finally get her own story via the voices of those who loved her…because this book, in, itself, is all about Lydia reclaiming her voice.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you haven’t heard of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it’s an online adaptation of Pride & Prejudice in which Lizzie is a grad student filming YouTube videos of her life. If you haven’t read about Pride & Prejudice, please go read it, go watch the LBD webseries, or read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet before checking out this review. Because while Lydia’s story can be read as a standalone, it’s just not as captivating or compelling if you don’t get the full story. The context is very important here (also, spoilers for the whole LBD series).
In The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet, we really, finally get to see how George’s betrayal (he encouraged Lydia to make a tape of them having sex, and then left town, intending to sell it to an online company) affected Lydia, changed her. Yes, we saw her videos and her in Lizzie’s videos. But now we get a taste of what it’s like being in her shoes, and it’s a hard place to be. Even though LBD ended on a good note for Lydia, we never got closure on her story. Her last video where she says she feels so happy and safe with George? That’s still up. There’s no conclusion after that.
And it makes sense, because the Lydia we saw at the beginning of the show is gone. She’s in counselling, she’s thinking about majoring in psychology, she’s got a plan to go to San Francisco with her cousin Mary and start at a school there, but she’s struggling to finish her credits for her Associate’s Degree so she can leave. And she’s scared, because all of her classmates (her whole town, in fact), know what happened to her. In particular, there are a few classmates who really make light of what happened to her, and it’s upsetting to see her in that position. Luckily, Lydia still has her family support – Mary plays a huge part in this book, and Lizzie and Jane make more than brief appearances. But still, she feels alone.
What I really loved about this book is that it doesn’t give an easy answer to what Lydia went through. She’s healing, but she’s still going through something really hard and scary, something that makes her question every action and every belief. It’s definitely darker than what we saw in LBD. Lydia goes to some haunting and sad places emotionally in this book, she makes some serious mistakes, she beats herself up…in some ways, this was one of the hardest books I’ve ever had to read. But it was also very, very real, and one thing I’ve learned about mental illness is that sometimes, it really is two steps forward and one step back.
But the thing with Lydia is – she also knows when enough is enough. And she’s stronger than she knows. The second half of the book is all about her making small steps to change her life, to celebrate herself, and to be kind to herself. And it’s about understanding what people are saying to her, with their actions and words (the Bennet family is almost smothering her with their pity and worried looks at the beginning of the book) and reconciling it with what makes sense in her heart.
I feel like I’m just babbling here, but it’s because this book is SO emotional. Lydia is a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, but she’s also someone who is excellent at avoidance and ignoring problems. Watching her go through this journey to realize what she needs and wants is both exhausting and exhilarating. It says a lot that at the end of the book, I felt PROUD of her. She was more than just a character to me. I was living this with her and to see her change throughout the book was so personal.
Secondary Characters Represent (aka all of the Bennets): Want to know how Lizzie and Darcy are doing? Or Jane and Bing? Or Mary? YOU WILL FIND OUT, and some of them have some serious developmental arcs that made me SO HAPPY.
I Want to Go To There: There’s a surprising amount of travel in this book, and it just works so well. You’ll guess at some of the moments in the travel, but I was so enamoured of them, I didn’t care if they were a little predictable.
School Daze: I loved the fact that we got to read some of Lydia’s schoolwork in the book. It made me laugh, smile, and fall in love with her more, because that is EXACTLY how Lydia would write papers.
Pitch-Perfect Voice: I know Kate Rorick and especially Rachel Kiley wrote Lydia’s dialogue on the show, but they really, really nailed the new Lydia as well. You still see hints of the adorbs and her effervescence, but you also see how smart and truly amazing she really is. They nailed it.
The Final Word:
Honestly, I really did love most of this book, but I think the darkness of the first half really wore on me…and yet, I can’t fault the writers for making me feel so much. This book is an excellent depiction of trauma and depression and how it can beat down on you, but also how support and time and understanding can change and move you onto the right path. It’s a stressful, emotional read, but it’s well worth it. If you’re a Lydia Bennet or Lizzie Bennet Diaries fan, this is the ending that you need for all of our characters.
THE EPIC ADVENTURES OF LYDIA BENNET comes out next week. I’ve already pre-ordered the audiobook, which is narrated by the actress who portrayed Lydia, Mary Kate Wiles, and I can’t wait to relive it through her. Will you be picking up a copy? Have you watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet?