I like that Ibi Zoboi didn’t call this a “retelling” of Pride and Prejudice. She’s going with the term “remix.” That seems to fit a little better, because while the main plot is pretty similar, there are lots of little things that don’t quite fit into a strict retelling. What Zoboi did instead was take a story that most of us already know, flip parts of it around, and make it her own. And it really worked for me.
Zuri Benitez was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She’s proud of her Haitian/Dominican heritage. She’s fiercely protective of her family — her four sisters and her parents, who are not only still together, but still in love — and of her neighborhood. Her goal is to graduate high school, go to Howard University, write poetry, and come back to Bushwick to help make her community stronger.
And one day, everything she knows changes. The formerly condemned house across the street has been renovated and is now a gorgeous “mini mansion.” And the family that moves in, the Darcys, have two gorgeous and wealthy sons who clearly don’t know anything about the ‘hood they have just moved into.
Zuri’s big sister, Janae, who is home from Syracuse for the summer, falls fast and hard for the older Darcy brother, Ainsley. And Zuri takes an almost immediate dislike to the aloof younger brother, Darius. Sure, he’s nice to look at, but his attitude isn’t doing him any favors. Zuri prefers a boy from Bushwick, like Warren, a neighborhood boy who happens to go to the same tony private school as Darius.
Throw in a plot about a santeria priestess living in the basement of Zuri’s apartment building, a bus trip down to DC to check out Howard and the local poetry scene, and Bushwick being taken over by Farm-to-table restaurants for white hipsters, and we’ve got ourselves a remix.
At first, I wasn’t 100% sure about this story. I didn’t like Zuri for a reason I couldn’t put my finger on. And then I realized, I didn’t like the fact that she was so selfishly hoping that Janae and Ainsley wouldn’t work out, simply because Zuri doesn’t like anything to change. She was kind of rude about her feelings regarding her sister’s happiness, and I didn’t love it. But she eventually owned up to that, and that’s when it all turned around for me.
Yes, Zuri’s mother is loud and hopes her daughters will find themselves rich men. Yes, Warren turns out to be gross and awful with young girls like Darius’ younger sister and one of Zuri’s sisters. And yes, Zuri is shocked to see her friend Charlise (heading to Duke on a basketball scholarship) end up with Colin, who ends up owning the apartment building she and her family live in. There’s a lot that the reader recognizes and expects from the original.
But there’s so much that Zoboi brings to this old story, giving it a lot of new life.
My one minor quibble with this story: I wanted more from the Lady Catherine De Bourgh character. She was a true piece of work and having her only appear in one scene was not nearly enough for me. I don’t live too far from Chevy Chase, and was actually there yesterday working in a school, and the picture painted of that area and some of its residents was absolutely on point.
This book was fun and entertaining, but also educational and enlightening. I did a lot of googling about different parts of Brooklyn, about Haitian and Dominican customs and food, and about Howard University. I was embarrassed by how much I didn’t know.
Tagging for #cbr10bingo as #cannonballersays! — I had just started reading this when I heard how amazing it was from emmalita. Her excitement definitely pushed me to finish it much faster than I would have on my own!