Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Bookish Boyfriends, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Retelling (in the loosest sense of the word)
As someone who loves reading, I always find it easy to relate to someone who’d rather read their book than get ready for school in the morning. While I understand that some people prefer books to be an escape, to read something they don’t get to experience in their everyday life, for me reading about someone who’s just as book obsessed as I am is always a pleasure. Schmidt did an amazing job in A Date with Darcy at making a book lover experience the world in a new way which, in turn, helped me feel like I was experiencing it all with Merrilee.
As the title of the book says, Schmidt took inspiration from Pride and Prejudice while writing this book. Of course Schmidt put her own spin on things, and even drew from Romeo and Juliet at time. If you’re a lover of Classic retellings, I can see this being an enjoyable read for you.
I love the fact that this book seemed to have 2 very distinct scenes without breaking it down to “Part 1” and “Part 2”, instead leaving it up to the reader to discover the subtle shifts in the narration.
Part of me loves the fact that there are mosaics on the paths at Hero High in order to show people which way to go and a part of me also thinks this is really weird. What happens if there’s a crowd of people walking by when you’re trying to figure out where you’re trying to go? Does every subject take place in a different building? How big is the school to need this? If you have answers, please share!
I’m slowly making my way through all of the Classics and I have to admit that I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice itself. While I usually prefer to read the original before reading any spinoffs, I’ve consumed so much media based around the story of Pride and Prejudice that even though the book is sitting on my shelves waiting for me to pick it up, I haven’t felt the pressure to actually read the Classic. Schmidt did such an amazing job at making her characters and plot come to life that I’m more inclined to push Pride and Prejudice up in my TBR to see how parallel this plot actually was to the original – though of course in a modern setting.
If you’re as into reading about book lovers and literary characters and scenes coming to life as I am, I recommend giving this book a try if you haven’t already. Schmidt’s words make the world vibrant and full of energy while her characters pull you along for a great ride.
Right at the beginning of the story we get to see Merrilee in all of her “hero” obsessed glory. Not only is she obsessed with the book she’s currently reading, she’s obsessed with the male protagonist and make sit clear she hopes to find her own literary “Prince Charming”. What better place to find this dream beau than her new high school?
Thankfully, Merrilee’s best friend, Eliza, is more down to Earth than Merrilee and is able to get her to school in plenty of time to get their usual first day of school tradition. It helps that Eliza’s parents always wanted her to go to Hero High but knew that Eliza wouldn’t go to a school without Merrilee in it. While Merrilee had to apply last minute, Hero High had Eliza’s application on hold – just in case.
Another bonus for Merrilee (and her sister Rory) was that their next door neighbour, and Merrilee’s other best friend, Toby, also attends Hero High. It’s obvious from the start that Rory has a huge crush on Toby while Toby, in turn, has a pretty big crush on Merrilee. Now if that isn’t awkward, I don’t know what is.
I also have to admit that most of the relationships in this story can be awkward at times. If we’re looking at Merrilee and Monroe, Merrilee and Fielding, or even Merrilee and Rory, it’s easy to see that being a teenager means dealing with a lot of awkward interactions.
Though the title of this story makes it clear that Schmidt took inspiration from Pride and Prejudice, I was both pleasantly surprised and confused when the first half of the story centered around the story of Romeo and Juliet. Even reading the book’s synopsis I was confused why the title hinted towards Pride and Prejudice while the plot seemed based around Romeo and Juliet. By the end of the first “act” I loved the way that Schmidt used this story as a way to show that everyone has a “book” (just like Miss Gregoire claimed). It was clear that Romeo and Juliet wasn’t the right story for Merrilee and by trying to make it fit into her life she was doing herself a disservice. It was only after getting in trouble and being assigned Pride and Prejudice was Merrilee able to find her true story.
Of course, I’m glad to see that the story of Pride and Prejudice took place through the people actually going to the Hero High and not through Darcy actually popping out of the pages to be with Merrilee. This little hint of realistic magic made the story so much more enjoyable for me. Merrilee went through all of the major plot points of Pride and Prejudice with Fielding starting even before Merrilee was assigned the book to read which just goes to show how right Miss Gregoire was about everyone having a “book”.
I also enjoyed the way that Toby used Emma as a way to try to hint that Merrilee and him should be more than just friends. It sucks having a crush on someone and knowing they don’t like you back but it’s even worse when that someone is also your good friend. Toby was trying to make a direct comparison between the events in Emma and his friendship with Merrilee and that they’d be better as more than just friends. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work the way he wanted it to.
A relationship that wasn’t how it seemed at the beginning of the book is the relationship between Merrilee and her older sister, Lillian’s, future mother-in-law. Being a senator can’t be easy having to deal with being in the spotlight at all times so I can understand wanting to have control over every aspect of your life that you can. Of course, that doesn’t excuse how rude she was to Lillian and Merrilee at the start of the book.
I greatly enjoyed the development in character that happened when Merrilee went to the senator’s office and they had their little heart to heart. It showed that the senator had helped Rory and Merrilee get into Hero High and basically forced the school to help fund their tuition but her reasoning for doing so was much more righteous than it seemed at the beginning of the story. Heck, Merrilee didn’t even know that the senator had done all this stuff until Fielding and his father made it so glaringly obvious to her.
The fact that the senator was willing to pay for both girls’ tuition and not say anything about it just goes to show that while she may show a cold exterior to the world, the senator does actually have a heart and she really does care about those around her. The fact that she decided to let the school scramble to pay for Rory and Merrilee’s tuition themselves because there was a disproportionate amount of money given to male students compared to female students also shows how strong of a backbone the senator has. I really did grow to like her as a character after all of this.
During their heart to heart, I found it really touching that the senator was able to open up to Merrilee about her reasoning for not wanting Merrilee to be Lillian’s maid of honour. It wasn’t because she didn’t like Merrilee. No, it was because she wanted to protect Merrilee from the scrutiny of being involved with the senator. This showed that the senator was willing to come across as the bad guy at times in order to protect the people she cares about. Sure, she doesn’t have to make it seem like she’s the bad guy to the ones she’s actually trying to help, but I can understand how it might be difficult to open up to people who haven’t been in your life for long. Especially when every move you ever make gets scrutinized so deeply.
On the other hand, I never did grow to like Fielding’s father. In fact, I really do think that the Headmaster of Hero High is a bit of a douche. He didn’t care about the fact that Merrilee was acing all of her classes easily or that – aside for the drama that Monroe forced her into – Merrilee was a really good student who generally followed the rules. I’m not counting the couple of times she crossed the grass, of course. No, the only thing that the Headmaster cared about was the fact that the senator basically forced the school to accept Rory and Merrilee’s applications after the deadline and to give them tuition help.
Honestly, it seems as if the Headmaster has a problem with Merrilee just because her family doesn’t have a lot of money. I know that the biggest issue for the Headmaster was probably the applications being forced through after the deadline, but he really does make it seem like he feels Merrilee doesn’t belong at Hero High because she’s from a middle class family. Her grades show that she belongs there, but he just assumes that her grades are bad and so is her personality.
I don’t know how both of his children were pretty down to earth (I’m giving Fielding a pass on this one because he sort of proves himself throughout the story). Someone who’s such a big douche usually raises their children to be douches as well. I’m thinking their mother is very kind and nurturing as their father certainly doesn’t seem the type.
It needs to be mentioned that the Headmaster’s douche-meter continued to climb throughout the whole story. Heck, he tried to use his position as Headmaster to intimidate Merrilee into breaking up with Fielding towards the end of the book. Do you really want to be such a control freak that you’re going to act like you have the right to decide who your children date? And you’re going to threaten expulsion when you don’t approve of the person your child likes? Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to work out well for you.
If you need to know something about teenagers it’s that they’re not going to take well to parental meddling. Merrilee started off the book hating Fielding because he was a little jerk about Merrilee accidentally throwing out garbage in the recycling. On top of that, he was a jerk (okay, a mini douche but his douche-meter went down throughout the story) about Merrilee coming to the school in the first place. The fact that Fielding finally changed Merrilee’s opinion about himself mixed with your trying to break them up is just going to push them together even more, Headmaster Douche.
Okay, enough of the childish name calling. I know it’s not right to keep calling someone a douche so I’ll stop it here. Even if the shoe does fit really well, Cinderella.
The first “act” surrounding Romeo and Juliet led the story along so beautifully. While things between Merrilee and Fielding were happening in the background, you get to read about a really messy and controlling relationship. There’s a reason people don’t think that the story of Romeo and Juliet is a romantic one. Not only are they young and foolish, but they’re not even really good for each other. It’s a tragedy to have to young people die but they did so foolishly and for someone they never really got to know. If they had gotten to know each other, like Merrilee and Monroe, they probably would have found out how incompatible they actually are.
Monroe is such a reckless person that it’s surprising it took as long as it did for him to get Merrilee in trouble. She didn’t know he was taking a test while messaging her, but that didn’t stop him from breaking school rules. Merrilee was trying to pay attention to her class, but Monroe made it obvious that he didn’t care about school and was trying to break virtually every rule the school had to see just how far he could push things.
Not as far as he though, it seems.
Certainly not as far as breaking into the school and hosting an underage party in the theater. Poor Rory, getting roped into things in Monroe’s attempts to get back at Merrilee for breaking up with him and refusing to take the blame for him “cheating” during his test. He might think that he was born to play Romeo, but really he was born to be an entitled asshole.
I do love the fact that Rory and Merrilee were given a moment together to actually talk and not bicker. Having a sister myself, I know how easy it is to fight when other people are around. But you also need to respect your sister (or brother, but I don’t have one of those) in order to have a healthy relationship with them.
This moment makes, while filled with homework, makes me excited to see Rory deal with her “book” – Little Women. It also made me wonder what Trent’s “book” was when he went to Hero High.