Book of the Month Club: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

Screenshot from the web series, Screenshot from the web series, "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries". Left to right: Julia Cho (Charlotte), Ashley Clements (Lizzie), Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia), and Laura Spencer (Jane). Photo credit: YouTube.

I’ve tried to write this essay many times.
The first time I tried, I would have told you my failure was having judgment poor enough to not be able to see that somebody trusted was only using me for his own game.
Another time I tried, I would have told you my failure was letting that situation impact me so deeply that I couldn’t keep my life on track, couldn’t even write this essay and get into college and moving on from my past, and it cost all the faith other people had put in me.
A lot has changed since then. I’ve changed, even if you can’t always see those changes on the outside.
I’m writing this essay now, aren’t I?

In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet is a minor character meant as a foil to both Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, the two eldest of five Bennet sisters. Headstrong and unashamed at any disgrace she might bring to her family, she elopes with George Wickham, though the latter has no intention on marrying her. It is only through Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth’s (eventual) love interest of the novel, that the Bennet family is spared from another disgrace by having Lydia and Wickham married.

However, times change, and with modern adaptations, eloping without the intent of marriage would probably not be taken as seriously as it were back in the nineteenth century. Lydia Bennet (played by the amazing Mary-Kate Wiles) in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, one of the more recent adaptations of Austen’s novel, instead is a reckless early twentysomething caught up in boys and booze. In an attempt to show that she loves her boyfriend, George Wickham, she is pressured into creating a sex tape which George exploits. Darcy’s intervention in this adaptation takes the form of his company buying out the company that agreed to distribute the tape. By the last episode of the web series, we leave behind a young woman that is somewhat stable, coping with the loss of someone who she trusted. This book picks up where Lizzie’s video diaries ended.

Lydia is now in therapy at her community college, but as her studies come to an end and she wants to enter into a university programme, she faces a dilemma: that application. It seems that the college to which she aspires has a simple idea: they want applicants to describe a past failure and how they learned from it. However, Lydia, coping with being an Internet sensation for all the wrong reasons, can’t put pen to paper just yet. Through a series of misadventures and interactions, including a trip to New York to see her sister Jane, one summer changes her for the better as she trips through the stages of becoming a mature young adult.

The voice established for Lydia’s character in the web series was well-established in the novel as well, through at some parts (in her descriptions of the therapist sessions, for instance) it seemed out of place. Though the novel is introspective, with Lydia asking questions about what had led to her situation and wondering about her future, I was expecting more soul-searching: in particular, I felt that Lydia’s thoughts during her attempts to date after a traumatic experience should have been elaborated upon further, as well as her thoughts and feelings towards the relationships with her friends at school. Even if this book has its dark spots, it does have its humour in it, which overall balances the book out. Worth a quick look.