Emma Ever After
by Brigid Coady
“The swooping feeling of being on a rollercoaster flew through her and for the first time she wanted to take her hands off the bars and let it take her on the ride.”
Emma Ever After is a contemporary novel based of Jane Austen’s Emma. In this version, Emma Woodhouse is a planner, a hard worker, and quite the control freak. She manages fake relationships – or fauxmances – at Mega! Management to help build the media coverage and popularity of celebrity clientele. She has a plan to stick to and refuses to deviate from that, even if she might be just a little bit completely in love with her roommate and former boyband superstar George (Gee) Knightly. While on a high profile assignment to set up a boyband with girlfriends she runs into some trouble when the boys refuse to cooperate. Emma tries everything she can to make everyone stick to her plan, but along the way is faced with the daunting ask of looking at her life from a different angle, one that tips her world.
Overall, the novel was very readable, it was light and quick and uncomplicated. I find many contemporaries to be predictable, and since I had already known the story of Emma, this fell under that category as well. However, I found it a nice book to read for relaxing as nothing was too high-stakes. The setting of the novel is in England, but beside the occasional mention for media purposes, there was not a lot of description with the setting. This was disappointing as I would have enjoyed a bit more of a backdrop on Emma’s life, but it did not take away from the story.
The characters and the plot were the focus of this novel. The plot was a little repetitive and tedious but flowed together really well with the events of the story and the timeline of what was happening. I enjoyed that the author decided to address the topic of biphobia within her novel as it is an incredibly important topic and usually overlooked by the general public. That being said, the main character is the one being biphobic most of the time, having a very ignorant outlook on the LGBTQA+ community, therefore some of her thoughts were uncomfortable to read because I did not agree with her. This can be tricky as every reader should be mindful that the characters they are reading about are flawed and not always good examples, as the case is with Emma. I think the author generally handled it well and I enjoyed the end notes they provided that focused on the stigma on bisexual people, but I think there could have been more dialogue and turmoil in Emma’s interior monologue to suggest her dynamic change regarding the subject throughout the novel.
Something that was unfortunate regarding the characters was that Emma was almost the only female in the entire novel and was most certainly the only female with any shred of sense. Understandably, being based off a novel where women had very little agency, there would be threads of that, but I found it to be incredibly disappointing that in a novel about a woman seemingly empowering herself, there would be other women around. I did enjoy that there were LGBTQA+ characters and thought that it brought a lot to the novel, but it seemed unrealistic that all of Emma’s friends were gay or bi men and I would have liked to see more female representation.
Overall, I found this to be a very different and unique retelling of Emma and was entertained throughout the novel (if a little frustrated with her character). Reading about the boyband and the way that Emma regarded relationship and the medias purpose within them was really thought provoking and eye opening. The work that she does throughout the novel is important in societies current use of social media and our views on celebrities. It was a interesting, back-stage approach to the media and how our lives and relationships have been affected by social media and the internet.