Sass and Serendipity is a YA contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, by Jennifer Ziegler.
Daphne and Gabby Rivera are sisters but are nothing alike.
Daphne, fifteen, is a romantic soul – she dreams of proms and marriage and love. She’s on the cheerleading squad and tends to be a peppy, cheerful girl without a care in the world. She’s always ready and waiting for that epic love to be right around the corner. And when the new guy, Luke, moves to town she’s sure she’s found the One.
Gabby, seventeen, is a practical soul – she works, studies, and looks at life as it is. She helps pay the bills and if she does any dreaming it’s only about leaving their small town far behind her. Love and romance couldn’t be further from her priorities. In fact, human interaction in general has never been Gabby’s strong suit. The only person she can really put up with is her loyal, longtime best friend Mule – he’s always been there for her and puts up with her perpetual grumpiness like no other.
Their parents’ divorce has affected both of the sisters, though in different ways. For Daphne, her heart is broken to be away from a loving father that she feels was pushed out by an unfeeling, passionless mother who cares too much about bills and money. For Gabby, she sees those bills and blames her father’s lack of responsibility and tries her best to help out her mom, whom she feels was left high and dry by her dad. She has no desire to spend any time with him.
It ends up being their financial woes that shake things up. Unable to continue to afford the rent any longer, an offer by a wealthy neighbor to live as a renter on a nice little house on their property is taken up – despite Gabby’s horror. The move, however, provides a couple of unlikely suitors for the sisters and a lesson in how complicated and multi-layered love can actually be…
I love Jane Austen and I love Sense and Sensibility, so I didn’t know if that would take away from Sass and Serendipity or take away from it. In the end, though, it really didn’t influence my opinion one way or another!
Gabby and Daphne are indeed our 21st century Elinor and Marianne, though Gabby’s a bit more pessimistic and angry than I ever remember Elinor being and Daphne is perkier than I recall poetry-inclined Marianne. But that’s just the thing. Jennifer Ziegler proves a wonderful basis of similarity while also creating an entirely new story.
Sass and Serendipity presents strongly written characters. Sometimes I wanted to shake Daphne just as much as Gabby did, and sometimes I was put off by just how mean Gabby could be – but one thing always stayed the same: Ziegler shows us their pain. Not all of it right away, but slowly and deliberately we get to really know these two sisters and very much root for them to let go of their dissimilarities and be there for each other.
I felt the romantic side of the novel was a bit more restrained than it needed to be – I could have used a bit more oomph on that side. Yet, it was still very well done. The character development, healing, and learning these two girls do is transfixing and causes a fast-paced read. There are time the novel hurts to read as see raw, real heartache, but it is an overall lovable and wistful story.
Sass and Serendipity is an exceptional, relatable tribute to Jane Austen – and though it might not be replacing Sense and Sensibility’s spot on my bookshelf anytime soon - I really, really liked it.