Titles: So Into You and When I'm With You
Author: Cecilia Gray
Genre: YA, Jane Austen-paralit, romance
Pages: 125 and 129 (respectively)
Ratings: 7 / 10 and 8 / 10 (respectively)
Challenges: Net Galley Challenge
Synopses: So Into You - "Sweet and sensible Ellie hasn't met a problem her mom's yoga mantras can't fix. But when Ellie's parents threaten to pull her from the Academy just as her flirtation with the cutest boy in school heats up, will Ellie be able to keep her cool?" (from GoodReads)
When I'm With You - "Kat is destined to be a star and her big break has arrived at last! As the assistant to a celebrity classmate on the set of a feature film, she's going to show everyone she has what it takes. That is, until she discovers pursuing her dreams may mean forfeiting her heart. Unless she can find a way to have both…" (from GoodReads)
My Review: I decided to review both of these at once, since I binged and read them pretty much back-to-back. (Did I mention how much I'm enjoying this series?) So Into You really surprised me at how much it deviated from the Sense & Sensibility template. Instead of being forced out of her home, Ellie is given a chance to stay at the Academy. Flirtatious Emma stands in for lively Marianne, bad boy Josh Wickham does double-time as Willoughby, and funny man Ed is Ellie's OTP, Edward Ferrars. Lucy also makes an appearance, for added angst, but Colonel Brandon and the rest of the Dashwood/Ferrars clan are absent. Essentially the only part of the original story that appears is the relationship (or lack thereof) between Ellie and Ed. Fortunately, the author doesn't just rely on rehashing Austen plotlines; Ellie's story is enjoyable for its own merits as well. She has to work hard to maintain her place in the Academy, and she does it in the same quiet, determined way that Elinor Dashwood would have. The sororal relationship between Ellie and Emma works well here, and it was nice to see the beginnings of Emma's story (which I can't wait to read!).
I think I enjoyed When I'm With You even more than the first two books in this series. Northanger Abbey is far from my favorite Austen novel, but I really enjoyed this updated version. Kat is still naive, but instead of being enamored with gothic novels, she's in love with acting and being the center of attention. Josh Wickham appears as yet another bad guy (John Thorpe this time), but the only other characters who made the cut were Isabella, Henry, Henry's father (all as fellow actors). Izzy and Josh were perfect as the manipulative Thorpes, and as much as I hated the way they treated Kat, I couldn't help but love (and pity) them. Henry was adorable, and his hats (and the explanation behind them) were a nice touch. I appreciated the changes made to the original plot - Izzy's redemption, Tom Trenton's apparent duplicity - because it seemed more believable (at least, by my understanding of Hollywood). I also enjoyed getting away from the Academy for a bit and letting Kat have her own adventure, free from the other girls. It was great to see her grow as a character and learn from her mistakes. I'm hoping that she will interact more with the others now, because I really enjoyed her as a protagonist and want her story to continue.
Full disclosure: I received electronic copies of these books from NetGalley. Also, I'm not big on the covers (especially that second one).
If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.