Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood | Abby McDonald | Book Review

To me, a good retelling has several key elements. The first key element is that if you have not read the origin story, the retelling makes you desperately want to read it (see: For Darkness Shows The Stars). Second, the retelling stays true to the original BUT build it’s own unique momentum. Unfortunately, I came into Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood by Abby McDonald, a contemporary retelling of Sense And Sensibility with expectations that were not met. I’ve read another book by McDonald and really enjoyed it. I’ve also read Austen’s Pride And Prejudice and really enjoyed it. However, my prior enjoyment of those two things did not culminate in a love of Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood at all. Instead, I found it to be lackluster – however it does have a few bonus points going for it.

Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood by Abby McDonald | Good Books And Good Wine

Grace and Hallie Weston’s father dies rather unexpectedly of a heart attack. Unfortunately, he did not have a will, so all of the money that he had went to his second wife, leaving nothing for Grace or Hallie. This totally sucks, it gets to the point where the two are forced out of the home they grew up in. Luckily, they have a rich uncle who lives in Hollywood and offers them a place to stay in the guest house. With no other options, the two sisters go with their mother to live in Hollywood. There, Grace pines for Theo, her stepmother’s brother, but more than that, a college boy whom she was getting very close to. Hallie soaks up the scene, falling for a guy named Dakota who saves her from drowning in the ocean. Dakota is a wannabe rock star, so while Hallie is head over heels for him, we can all see where this is going. Basically, Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood is about the two Weston sisters navigating a new landscape in the wake of their father’s death and more than that, about affairs of the heart.

Grace is supposed to be Elinor Dashwood. She’s sensible and studious and logical. The girl would never make an impulsive decision. She also is really into science, which I think is totally awesome. Probably Grace’s biggest flaw is that she comes across as super judgmental when it comes to her sister. She is also kind of a wet blanket. I think that if you were to compare her to another children’s literature character it would be Elizabeth Wakefield. Enough said.

Hallie is supposed to be Marianne Dashwood. She’s very emotional and mercurial. She wants to be a famous actress. Unfortunately, Hallie is constantly throwing tantrums and acting out. She experiences very, very intense feelings and does some things that had me shaking my head — like what the what? While she is the most interesting of the two girls, I did not entirely sympathize with her or even connect.

There are several romances going on in Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood. None of these romances are all that sizzling though. There was never an OMG OMG I HOPE THEY KISS THERE ARE SPARKS AND CHEMISTRY feeling with this book. Instead, I felt like I was biding my time reading until the end. There is one character though, that I wish had recieved more page time and that’s Brandon. He’s the strong, silent type and totally into Hallie, but she just cannot be bothered with him.

I will say, one cool thing McDonald did with her retelling was cast Grace and Hallie as multi-racial — their dad is white and their mom is Nigerian. I liked that there was actually some diversity for once. Unfortunately, that was not enough to make me love the book and overall, I ended up feeling apathetic toward this retelling. No love. No hate. Take that as you will.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Other reviews of Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood by Abby McDonald:

Alexa Loves Books – “exactly the kind of novel I was craving when I picked it up
A Girl, Books And Other Things – “the writing was fun
YA Litwit – “I think you will be pleasantly surprised

Books by Abby McDonald:
Boys, Bears, And A Serious Pair Of Hiking Boots

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that girl possessed of a love of Jane Austen will want to read every retelling on the market.

    Unfortunately, it is also an acknowledged truth that many of said retellings will suck donkey balls.

    To read this one or not? LOL at Willoughby being a rock star. Elinor is a bit of a wet blanket, though. Maybe slightly less judgmental, but she def is not for the partying and exuberant affections.

    Hmm, I do still want to try this maybe. Have you read Sense and Sensibility? Their characters actually don’t sound all that far off, really. Marianne does do a lot of really stupid things, though I imagine Hallie’s are dumber, since it wouldn’t be shocking to send messages everyday. Probably texting him constantly or something?

  2. I love Jane Austen and I’ve enjoyed the two books by Abby McDonald that I’ve read so I was sorry to find out that this book ended up being a disappointment for you. Of course I have read my share of disappointing retellings of Jane Austen novels and other classics. I did love For Darkness Shows the Stars. I have yet to find a retelling of S&S that I like. I may still give this a try just for fun if I can get it from the library but I will pick it up without any expectations. Thanks for your review!

  3. Aww, that’s too bad that this was a let down. I was curious about it because JANE AUSTEN! But I think I’m going to pass. I do really love that the girls are biracial, though. There needs to be more diversity in YA books!

  4. I agree with everything you said, I think you articulated it better than I did. There was so much potential to the story but it was just flat all across the board.

    Part of it were fun, the writing wasn’t bad, but it just never comes together.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  5. Aw! I love Jane Austen, so I’m always up for things inspired by her. But I’ve read so many lackluster ones at this point that I’m a little more cautious now before picking up a retelling or whatever. Sad to hear this was a letdown but glad for the honesty! If I read this one, I’ll definitely get it from the library.

  6. It makes me sad that this one wasn’t a hit for you, but I can definitely understand why. I honestly felt like it was a book that came at the right time for me, as I was craving a contemporary retelling. I enjoyed it!