Classism, predatory teenage boys being predatory teenage boys, death.
– Strong voice
– Solid concept
– Meaningful topic: gentrification
– Clever adaption
– Sharp characterization
– Ideas never fully come together
– Zoboi never unveils a truly likeable Darius
– Falls short as both a retelling and as a story in its own right
– If you’re retelling a classic like P&P you gotta deliver on that romance!
Despite a sound concept and clever role conversion from the original, Pride never reaches its full potential and the result feels like an unfinished thought.
Themes and Representation—★★★☆☆
Pride has a lot of things going for it. As a retelling, Zoboi’s done an amazing job of translating the original characters and themes into modern terms, along with weaving in powerful current themes. Her characterization is sharp, the characters distinct, Zuri’s voice is excellent. I really wanted to like it. But, although it wasn’t a bad read, I never felt much attachment or emotion during or after. Pride never hits the reader as hard as Zoboi intends it to.
Pride‘s biggest problem is that it never brings its two key factors—the romance with the aloof Darius and Zuri’s struggles with her changing neighbourhood—far enough to create a satisfying whole. Firstly, Darius: he never quite redeems himself for being a rich jerk. That line of thought turns into a tepid “Well, wasn’t Zuri kind of rude in her prejudice against him for being rich?” There’s such a discrepancy of wealth between them, and Zoboi doesn’t get enough digs in along that line. Zuri shares a room with four sisters and across the street from her Darius lives in a friggin’ mansion. It’s such a scathing detail, and it’s only mentioned in passing. Second, there’s a lot of pointless bickering and drama between Zuri and Darius. (Things like Darius taking on a different personality when he parties, which is never fully addressed.) This is a Pride and Prejudice retelling: there absolutely NEEDS to be some back and forth between Zuri and Darius. But the author needed to structure these interactions in a way that leads to something bigger and progresses thematically as the book goes on. In Pride, their interactions are very unstructured and go in pointless circles. There’s no satisfaction in their romance, only a half-hearted “not as big of a jerk as I thought you were” sticker slapped on Darius near the end.
What happens with Zuri’s home and neighbourhood, in the end, is infinitely frustrating. It’s a quick and dirty exit. Zuri’s realization feels forced and her ending sentiments lukewarm. Frankly, it feels as if the deadline was looming, and a halfhearted ending was tacked on.
Zoboi has done such an awesome job balancing out Zuri’s dreams of the future with her current naivety. Zuri is dead certain of what she wants and how her neighbourhood fits into those dreams, but Zuri’s specific corner of her neighbourhood is also the only thing she’s ever experienced. How can she act as if Bushwick is the entire world if her internal map of Bushwick only covers so many blocks? It’s a great approach for her character, and I’m sad her character arc never feels fully realized.
I took little issue with Zoboi’s writing style, which had a few weak word choices, but was overall vibrant and musical. She characterized each character sharply and described them with precision and clarity. Zuri’s voice is strong and distinct and conveys her confidence and personality exceptionally well.
People who like poetry. Or really, really like Brooklyn.