By Grace Beltowski

Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with young adult fiction—The Hunger Games, Throne of Glass, and The Lunar Chronicles are among my favorites. I like these books because they’re imaginative, entertaining, and helplessly easy to binge-read. Sure, they all seem to follow a standard plotline, but there’s something about them that is just so addicting. Perhaps it’s all of the dystopian societies, steamy romances, or badass heroines.

These YA gems will always hold a special place in my heart, but at one point I came to the conclusion that while they’re certainly entertaining, many of them are not superbly written. But that was just the way it was, wasn’t it? There were fun, enjoyable books like The Hunger Games, and then there were the stuffy, boring, but well-written classics like The Grapes of Wrath that we all had to suffer through in high school. Never in my experience had a book been both entertaining and brilliantly written, that is until I read Emma by Jane Austen.

The book is about a rich young woman named Emma who believes she is gifted in matchmaking, only to discover her skills are questionable when her meddling goes awry. The story is absolutely captivating, filled with so many intricacies and details that come together to create a thoughtful and heartfelt narrative. There were surprises, twists, humor, romance, moments when I was laughing out loud and moments when I was close to tears. All of the elements that make up an engaging tale.

Not only was the story enthralling, but Austen’s writing style is unlike any author I have ever read. Her characters are all so distinct, each with their own set of quirks and faults that bring them to life. Her diction is delicious, her dialogue is clever, and her voice is so proper and ladylike, yet underlying it all are irony and sarcasm that challenge the constraints of her time. What’s more, her writing made me feel things—giddiness, satisfaction, annoyance, contempt. She has truly discovered how to capture the profound experience of being alive within a few simple sentences or paragraphs.

I remember finishing the book and just wanting to go to Regency England and stroll about a garden with a parasol or go strawberry-picking like they do in the story, and that made me realize what was so different about Jane Austen. Reading her work wasn’t just me witnessing a story unfold; it was being transported to another world, absorbed in a moment so deeply that I forgot who I was and where I was from. That, to me, is powerful writing, and that is what each and every reading experience should be comprised of.

If you’re looking for an author who not only writes a good story, but writes it well, then take a step back in time and read a Jane Austen novel. Those glorious YA fantasies will still be there when you return; you just might notice they have some big shoes to fill.

 

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