I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Epically Earnest by Molly Horan. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Epically Earnest, a modern-day retelling of The Importance of Being Earnest, Jane Worthing has grown up internet famous after her birth family abandoned her in a train station. Her adoptive parents are wonderful, but as the end of high school approaches, she’s starting to wonder who her biological parents are. It doesn’t help that her best friend Algie has sent her DNA to a genealogy site and possibly found a cousin. More than that, Jane is also dealing with a crush that might be becoming romantic, and with Algie’s infatuation with Jane’s cousin Cecil. Through all of this, Jane is struggling to find herself, but might be able to with the help of friends and family.
I like the play that this novel is based on well enough, so I found this to be a fun little adaptation.
The characters aren’t mind-blowing, but they aren’t bad either. Algie (my computer keeps telling me it should be Algae, but I will prevail) is flamboyant and over-the-top but caring. Cecil and Gwen are sweet, though there isn’t too much depth there. The most fleshed-out character is definitely Jane, whose search for identity as she faces all the changes that will come with graduation is relatable and sympathetic.
The romantic subplots are interwoven with Jane’s family drama well, and I quite liked how supportive Jane’s parents are. I also enjoyed that the characters’ sexual/romantic orientations were treated with such casual, loving acceptance rather than resulting in further drama. I think I could have done with more time to develop both main romances, though, because by the end, I wasn’t feeling that either couple had been together long enough or knew each other well enough to be saying “I love you,” but oh well. I’ve never had a whirlwind high school romance while also meeting long-lost blood relatives, so I guess I can’t judge.
I’m also not a huge fan of the concept of promposals (which luckily didn’t really take off until after I graduated), so I wasn’t thrilled that they were a plot point here. That said, I have a hunch that, had he been alive to see one, Oscar Wilde would have found them amusing, so I am not that mad at their inclusion in this story. It also served as a fun pop culture reference to a film I’d momentarily forgotten about, Enchanted. I have a feeling Wilde would have liked that too.
As for the end of the story, love confessions and promposals aside, I could have used a tiny bit more resolution regarding Jane’s search for her family. I know that she does find blood relations, but considering how much of her time she spent thinking about her biological parents, it was odd that they weren’t found. I also think my familiarity with the play—where I’m pretty sure the culprit for the baby abandonment was identified at the end—gave me certain expectations that weren’t fulfilled.
In the end, though, Epically Earnest is a cute story. The characters are fine, the plot decent, and the emotional beats more than all right. There’s some fun banter and solid character development. It’s a clearly affectionate riff on a classic play, and though I wanted more depth to the romance and more resolution with Jane’s family, I still had a nice time.
Epically Earnest will be published on June 21st, 2022!