This latest venture in literary repurposing—19th-century classic to teen chicklit—features an overlooked middle sister whose freshman English assignment propels her into Alcott’s novel, where, as sister to Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, she’s overlooked again.
Emily assumes she’s been sent to change something about the March sisters’ story—perhaps she'll save Beth?—yet at first the Marches barely register her presence. Life with the fictional Marches echoes Emily’s real one. There, she’d tried and failed to attract a boy with a crush on her older sister. With her knowledge of Laurie’s interest in Jo, Emily moves in to nab him first, only to scare him away. Plenty of teen heroines feel invisible, but Emily’s indignant reaction and optimistic determination to be noticed set her apart. The story works best when delivering Emily’s contemporary-teen take on the classic’s more dated elements (Marmee’s lectures, the family’s preachy good intentions, Victorian gender relations), which haven’t worn well. Contradictions abound though. How someone as vivid and feisty as Emily can be ignored in either world is unclear. The fantasy device feels awkward, and themes and plot elements don’t quite coalesce.Set churlish quibbles aside, though, and what remains is a consistently entertaining read that delivers a genuinely original heroine and frequently hilarious satire. (Fantasy. 12 & up)