Round II, Bracket III: Pride vs. The Prince and the Dressmaker

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.

I’ve had this book on my to-read pile for a while, so I was excited for a push to make reading it happen.  I can’t comment about the similarities or differences between Pride and Pride and Prejudice since I never did get around to reading the original (gasp!).  I think this helps my review as I don’t think a majority of teens will pick up this title particularity because they read Pride and Prejudice.  This book truly does stand on its own without relying on character development or plot points known from reading the original.  The voices and characters were authentic. There are times, we’ve all seen it, where YA authors try too hard to emulate the speech and actions of teens and it comes off awkward.  Zoboi does not have that issue. Zuri’s family was full of wonderful characters. I’d actually love to read books focusing on each of their own lives as well. I view that as a sign of great writing.  On the other hand, I felt that there was a lot crammed into this book. I wanted to dive deeper into Zuri’s school visit and her own writing. Pride left me wanting more.  

There’s only one weakness hit me while I was reading Pride: I’ve read this story before multiple times.  I know that’s not really a fair weakness for a retelling, but it’s important.  As I said before, this is not based on reading Pride and Prejudice since I’ve never read it (gasp again!).  However, the story of two teens who start out disliking one another and eventually overlook the origins of their feelings and get along is spun a lot.  I felt the story was more predictable, even though it was entertaining.

I would recommend this book to readers who like subtle romances.  This book is also filled with strong, female characters which is not as easy to find in realistic fiction as in fantasy/dystopian books.  Finally, for those who want to encourage reading diverse books, this is the one for you. Also, if audiobooks are your thing, Pride is a fantastic option.  The narrator fit the characters and kept you engaged.  

Tagline: If Jane Austen lived in Bushwick…

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

First off, while I know my own opinions don’t matter in the grand scheme of Tournament of Books, I feel like I should state that graphic novels are not my favorite.  That being said, there are several amazing things about The Prince and the Dressmaker.  The originality behind this story hits the reader right away.  By looking at the cover, you’d think that this is a type of “Cinderella” story where the prince stumbles upon the dressmaker, Frances, and falls for her, bringing her back to the castle for a makeover to easily infiltrate the society types.  In reality, it’s Prince Sebastian who is the subject of the makeover and takes on his true identity as a woman. The book is full of conflict, both the obvious involving Sebastian’s double-life and the slowly growing conflict between Sebastian and Frances.  The illustrations truly make this story come alive, excuse the cliche. It was exciting to see what new dresses Lady Crystallia would wear from page to page.

As for weaknesses, there’s the obvious one in which outing Sebastian is used as a plot point.  Without revealing too much and spewing out a bunch of spoilers, I can see why she chose to include this, but I can see readers sensitive to this situation not wanting to read this one.  The other weakness is more subjective. I think that the character of Frances could have been developed more. The reason I think that it can be viewed more as subjective is that my feelings might be because I just like Sebastian/Lady Crystallia more and pushed past Frances.

I would recommend this for graphic novel readers and non-readers.  This story and the illustrations tell the story seamlessly. This is also an obvious recommendation for those looking for LGBTQ+ books, but once again, may be a triggering issue for some readers.  Finally, I’d recommend this for those looking for a fairy tale turned on its ear.

Tagline: Forget your pumpkins and slippers, there’s a new Cinderella in town.

The Winner: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

It was a difficult decision to pick the best book from these two.  I believe both of them will find many, many readers. While I usually wouldn’t choose a graphic novel over a novel, I feel I must this time.  The Prince and the Dressmaker is the winner.  Pride was great, but the originality in The Prince and the Dressmaker is what pushes it over the top.  Pride is a familiar tale with a plot that we’ve seen before with different incarnations of characters.  The Prince and the Dressmaker deserves to move on and battle another day.

Brandi Smits is the Youth Services Manager at the Orland Park Public Library.  When not doing the library-thing, she is probably dying her hair, cross-stitching something, or reading books in breweries.

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2 thoughts on “Round II, Bracket III: Pride vs. The Prince and the Dressmaker

  1. Pingback: Round II, Bracket IV: Contagion vs. Dry | So like YA know…

  2. Pingback: 2019 Tournament of Books | So like YA know…

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