Book Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Epic Fail
Author: Claire LaZebnik
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When Elise Benton and her family move from the East Coast all the way to sunny California, Elise never expected that life in the Golden state could be so different than what she’s used to. For one thing, at Coral Tree Prep, her new school, kids of celebrities run rampant, everyone drives fancy cars and getting dressed for school might as well be as important as dressing for prom. Suffice it to say, Elise and her sisters don’t quite fit in.

But when Elise’s older sister Juliana takes a liking to Chase, a popular senior, Elise has no choice but to tag along and become friends with his friends. It’s better than eating lunch alone, right? But eating lunch with Chase and his friends, specifically Derek, son of Hollywood royalty, is not as enjoyable as she had hoped. Derek is not friendly. At all. When Elise realizes that trying to become friends with Derek is a dead end, she turns to his enemy, the charming and funny Webster Grant. But Elise has a lot to learn about life at Coral Tree Prep. Things, and people, are not what they seem…and sometimes, judging a book by its cover is the fastest way to ruin a perfectly good thing before it even has the chance to begin.

After reading and loving many Claire LaZebnik novels, I was super excited to hear she was writing a YA novel. However, the switch from fantastic adult fiction to teen fiction is not always easy. While LaZebnik’s writing shines in this story, the characters and plot just weren’t there for me.

I could not stand Elise’s family. Literally, every one of her sisters annoyed me, especially Layla. For a ninth grader, she was ridiculously immature and acted like a baby. I know that 14 or 15 year olds aren’t adults and certainly aren’t super mature or grown up but Layla took immaturity to a whole new level. As a reader, I felt like I was supposed to like Julianna, but I couldn’t warm up to her because she was so self-righteous. Her personality just wasn’t believable; no teenager is that nice to her younger sisters, all the time.  While I appreciated how close Juliana and Elise were, something about Juliana’s personality kept me from fully embracing their relationship. Then came Elise’s parents. They took ridiculousness to a whole new level. No cell phones in the house? Is this 2011 or what? I get that her parents were supposed to be strict, but again, I found some of their rules difficult to believe.

From the beginning, I wasn’t crazy about Webster. Something about him felt a little off, a little too casual. However, unlike Elise, I quickly found myself falling for Derek. He was so quiet and aloof; so careful to let anyone in. Even though Elise and Derek’s relationship was predictable, I loved every moment of watching them fall for each other, especially in helping Juliana and Chase. The story really picked up towards the end as Elise and Derek got to really know one another, and I only wish we had the chance to see their relationship develop further.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book was the setting. I loved the scenes that took place at Elise’s school, Coral Tree Prep. The outdoor lunch scenes made me extremely jealous, as I thought back to my very traditional high school cafeteria. It was especially fun seeing Coral Tree Prep through the eyes of Elise and Juliana, since they had come from such a different high school experience prior to moving.

Having never read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (I know, I know…it’s a classic) I didn’t really know what to expect, but I enjoyed the story all the same. For lovers of P&P, I’m sure discovering the connections and similarities was fun, but for those who haven’t read the classic, the story is still understandable and interesting to read, so no worries if you haven’t read the classic.

I felt the book got a little preachy toward the end with Webster. Where the heck did his pedophile video camera creepy self come from? Definitely didn’t guess that when I started reading the book. I thought this was a little farfetched. At that point in the book, I already didn’t like Webster…this new added element of creepiness just seemed over the top and unnecessary.

I’m a little confused about the title of the book. It’s fun title, EPIC FAIL, definitely caught my attention before I decided to purchase the book because I think it’s definitely a saying that has caught on in the past few years. “Ugh, last night was such an epic fail!” or “Didn’t do so hot on that exam. #epicfail” especially with social media. I’ve seen #epicfail used as a hashtag on several occasions. However, after I finished the book, I still hadn’t figured out why the book was called EPIC FAIL. There was no apparent connection, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Elise said it once or twice toward the beginning of the book.

Even though I didn’t fall in love with this story like I had hoped I would, I was still able to appreciate the main lesson of the story; don’t judge people before getting to know them. Elise certainly learned this lesson the hard way after assuming that Derek was a certain way because of his celebrity mom. This is definitely a legitimate take home message for anyone reading the story; a good reminder not to be quick to judge and to give people a chance.

While EPIC FAIL fell a little flat for me, Claire LaZebnik remains one of my favorite writers. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.



3 thoughts on “Book Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik”

  1. You have never read P&P? That is sadness, ha. It is one of my favorite books in the world.

    I absolutely loved this one, I love P&P so the modern twists/retellingso n it are my favorites!

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