Book review: ‘Enthusiasm’ by Polly Shulman

enthusiasmJulie Lefkowitz knows where her allegience lies — and it’s all with Ashleigh Rossi, her childhood best friend and serious Enthusiast. Ashleigh’s whims change without warning and encompass her entire being, dragging Julie along as she suddenly develops an interest in insects, candy-making or King Arthur — and then some.

Usually glad to go along with Ash’s infectious, excited schemes, her latest is causing Julie to feel anxious — Ashleigh is now obsessed with Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice, Julie’s very own favorite book. And from the moment Ash appears at Julie’s wearing a long gown, speaking in Regency language and begging her to crash a “ball” at neighboring all-boys school Forefield Academy, Julie knows this is no ordinary Enthusiasm.

And it’s not, of course. At the dance they meet Ned Downing and Charles Grandison Parr, two “very suitable” young men who could very clearly resemble their own Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, respectively. But which gentleman will pair off with which young lady? Or are they totally immune to the girls’ charms?

I can’t believe I only discovered this book by browsing through a bargain bookshelf. It was absolutely, totally fun and adorable! That’s really the best way I can describe it. Was the romance a wee bit predictable? Yes. Were there times you wanted to punch Julie, our narrator, in the arm for being so obtuse? Definitely. Was it obvious that, in the tradition of Jane Austen, we would get our very own happy ending? Sure. But let me tell you, it didn’t really hurt this infectious story at all.

What really anchored the whole novel for me was the knowledge that we all have an Ashleigh — or that we’ve all been an Ashleigh. My friends and family have long teased me that I jump from one “obsession” to another, and I absolutely saw myself in Shulman’s whimsical character. Ashleigh’s friendship with Julie was so strong, as was their devotion to each other — and it was so refreshing to see a pair of friends who don’t turn on each other the moment a pimply teenage boy shows them an ounce of attention. Seriously, Ashleigh and Julie were Ashleigh-and-Julie, and I loved that.

The family dynamics here were really strong, too. Goodness knows I love to see a functioning, well-drawn and relatable family! While Julie’s parents are divorced and she divides her time between her mother’s home with an antiques store in front and her father’s place with her new stepmother Amy, the “Irresistable Accountant,” the book doesn’t fall into the mire of “where do I belong, what did I do wrong” that’s so completely played out. Both homes welcomed her, though Julie did occasionally struggle with being kind to Amy. Though I couldn’t exactly blame her . . . I’m sure I would have had a hard time always being nice to Amy, too.

Jane Austen fans will delight in seeing a young woman so engrossed with one of their own favorite novels, as will the many women who have looked for their own Mr. Darcy. Ashleigh’s Enthusiasm is totally contagious, and at just 208 pages, you can whip right through this one in a sitting or two. And I’m so glad I did!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0142409359 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

17 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Enthusiasm’ by Polly Shulman

  1. Confession to make, I’ve never really read Pride and Prejudice (or any other Austen novel) but after I get past that hurdle in my life, I’ll try picking this one up. It sounds like an amazing read!


    • In your spirit of confession, I’ll confess that in the past, I’d only read Pride & Prejudice under duress — as required reading in high school! Now my feelings have changed, of course, but Austen is an acquired taste. Of course I highly recommend her work!

      I think you could enjoy Enthusiasm without ever having read Austen, though, honestly. There aren’t a ton of “inside jokes” or references you would only “get” if you’re an Austen fan. Which is another good thing about it!


  2. Great review! I am so envious of your beautiful writing.

    I loved Enthusiasm and reviewed it last year! Shulman paid gentle homage to Jane Austen with energy and humor. Well done. It is classified as Young Adult Fiction, but adults will enjoy it as well.

    I am adding your excellent review in my list of links. Thanks.


  3. Pingback: Polly Shulman’s ‘Enthusiasm’ for Jane Austen is Infectious! « Austenprose

  4. Love the cover and title. I’m halfway through P & P right now and really enjoying it. This might be a good one for when I’m done.


  5. ah, yes – ZEN AND THE ART OF … I set that one down long ago, only about one third of the way through it. And then not long ago my son picked it up. He finished it in a couple of days.
    Just goes to show ya!


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  8. This book is absolutely AMAZING!I don’t read much at all because I can never find a book I like but after reading this it inspires me to read more.
    But it’s a really cute story that any teenager girl (or any girl for that matter) can relate to. 🙂


  9. Pingback: The Best Darn YA Novels You’ve Probably Never Read « write meg!

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