Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
I picked up Pride because I loved Zoboi’s other novel, American Street. Also, a modern-day Pride and Prejudice retelling? Um, yes? I was really looking forwards to reading this and even though it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, Pride was still an enjoyable read steeped in home and family.
Generally, I liked Zuri. Zuri was incredibly loyal to her family and her home, which was a really admirable trait, but sometimes made her frustrating because of how she looked at outsiders like the Darcys. It takes Zuri a long time to get used to and accept outsiders from Bushwick, despite knowing nothing about them beforehand – not just the Darcys, but Claire, as well as venturing outside of her neighbourhood. It made her seem closed-minded in so many ways. I liked how close Zuri was to her family, though; family connections are always something I love in YA books.
I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, so I don’t know the details of the story, but there was a lot I recognized that was pulled from the novel just from popular culture. I really liked how Darius and Zuri kept calling each other “Mr. Darcy” and “Ms. Benitez” because it was such a cute callback to the original novel. And the dinner with the Darcy matriarch had me holding my breath because it was so reminiscent of Austen’s commentary on social mores. Like, you know those dinner parties are going to be tense. What I really liked, though, is how Zoboi takes a classic white, British story and reclaims it for a completely different audience, using the fact that it’s a retelling to convey similar social commentary that Austen does. It’s a clever way of doing it that isn’t just rehashing the basic plot.
The biggest part of why a lot of the book fell flat for me was the romance, though. I wasn’t into it. One of the things I know about Pride and Prejudice is the almost memetic quality of Mr. Darcy’s attractiveness. I wasn’t getting that from Darius. Darius seemed so distant, even after him and Zuri got together. I didn’t see what Zuri saw in him because I felt like we didn’t get to know Darius at all.
Zuri’s interest in writing and poetry was neat, though. I liked seeing all of the poems interspersed throughout the story talking about her experience growing up in Bushwick and the people in her building. Really, Bushwick was a setting that was so vivid and lively, so it was easy to see why Zuri loved it so much. Zuri’s Haitian and Dominican background features so vividly in the story, which adds to making the setting feel alive and welcoming to the reader, even if they’re unfamiliar with the culture. If the characters and their dynamics were as lively as Bushwick was, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.
I think Pride is a good retelling of Pride and Prejudice that intersperses social commentary with a romance and a vivid setting, yet the romance is the least interesting part of it. I would definitely recommend this to folks who like retellings of classic novels.