Welcome to book spotlight where instead of giving you another book review, I’m just going to talk about books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Prepare yourself for the fangirl gushing.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if someone writes a Jane Austen retelling, I will probably attempt to read it. Unfortunately, that means I’ve read a lot of bad retellings. Fortunately, I Speak Boy by Jessica Brody—a loose retelling of Emma—was not bad. It was in fact: fun, adorable, and perfectly middle grade. I’m starting to wonder if the “loose retelling” aspect is why I enjoyed it more than other Austen retellings.
For the most part, I Speak Boy follows the main plot of Emma with Emmy Woods, a phone-obsessed seventh grader, playing matchmaker with her friends and peers. There are some deviations from the plot, such as certain characters not being as big of a focus (even if they make an appearance) or that Emmy has a mom instead of a dad, but I didn’t really mind since this is middle grade and shouldn’t be as complicated or long as the original classic. The changes Jessica Brody made work for the modern setting and this particular adaptation. Plus, it has the vibe of Emma and that’s enough for me.
Notable characters like Mr. Knightley, Harriet Smith, Mr. Weston, even Frank Churchill all show up in some way in the novel. Grant Knight is the lovable boy next door that Emmy grew up playing with. Harper Song is Emmy’s artistic and sweet best friend. Mr. Weston is Emmy’s computer science teacher (who may or may not have a crush on Emmy’s mom). And Frankie is the cute high schooler who works at the local fro-yo store.
The book starts off with a bang as Emmy gets herself into a ridiculous predicament and it just rolls out from there. It’s fun, it’s over the top (as it should be), and it’s so dramatic. Normally a book with a character like Emmy would annoy me to know end, but this book does a good job capturing the Emma Woodhouse personality and giving her the redemption arc that original novel has. The ending is super sweet and perfect for this type of story.
I Speak Boy is a fun retelling of Emma. Because it’s a loose retelling, it can stand on its own as a story and readers don’t have to be familiar with Emma to enjoy it. But fans of Austen’s work will definitely appreciate the references to the original classic.
Also, I love Grant. He’s a great parallel to Mr. Knightley.