Title: Being Mary Bennet
Author: J.C. Peterson
Publishing date: March 15, 2022
ISBN: 9780063060135(Hardcover) 9780063060159(Ebook)
Genre: Young-Adult. Young-Adult Romance. Retellings
Reviewer name: Preye
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every bookworm secretly wishes to be Lizzie Bennet.
A less acknowledged truth is that Mary Bennet might be a better fit.
For seventeen-year-old Marnie Barnes, who’s convinced she is the long-suffering protagonist of her life, this revelation comes at the end of a series of self-induced disasters that force her to confront a devastating truth: Marnie has more in common with Mary Bennet—the utterly forgettable middle sister—than the effervescent Lizzie.
Determined to reinvent herself, she enlists the help of her bubbly roommate and opens herself up to the world-leading lady style. And between new friends, a very cute boy, and a rescue pup named Sir Pat, Marnie realizes that being the main character doesn’t mean rewriting your life entirely. It’s about finding the right cast of characters, the love interest of your dreams, and, most important, embracing your story, flaws and all.
The author has created a protagonist that, at once, annoys and endears herself to the reader. Following her on her journey and watching her self-discovery was a delight. The book captures the essence of youth and family dynamics in an honest way.
I like reading books that are styled around neglected characters in literary history. I was quite enamoured with the interpretation of Rosalie—from Romeo and Juliet—in Always Never Yours and it is still one of my all-time favourite YA-romance novels. In this book, we get a pleasant re-imagination of Mary Bennet’s story. Depicted in Pride and Prejudice as the overly pedantic, closed-off, and cynical sister of Elizabeth Bennet, she is looked at as a cautionary tale for negative nancies.
The protagonist is similar to Mary in many ways: her penchant to correct people every time, refusal to get close to people, ingrained self-doubt, amongst others. Marnie showed herself to be so darned unlikeable in the first chapters, but I found myself rooting for her towards the end. Eventually, her behaviour started to make more sense and while I cannot say that I was 100% happy with the final resolution, more than anybody, she deserved her happy ending.
The writing is concise and since it is written entirely from Marnie’s POV, we don’t get much of a read on the other characters. But, she more than makes up for it with her willful disposition to break the Mary Bennet cloud supposedly looming over her. I love that her story did not end with a total change in her attitude. She decided to keep the parts of herself that made her who she was and grew into her skin, while fully acknowledging that she was loved in all the ways that mattered.
1. You like YA-romance
2. You like retellings.
3. You read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice.
4. You like underrated characters.
5. You’ve always wondered what happened to Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
1. In Praise of “Plain” Heroines: Why Mary is my Favorite Bennet Sister by Katherine J. Chen.
2. The Mary Bennet Makeover: Postfeminist Media Culture and the Rewriting of Jane Austen’s Neglected Female Character by Camilla Nelson.
3. There’s Something About Mary Bennet by Megan Garber.