There’s always that rare and beautiful moment present when diving headfirst in a story. I’m that sort of reader who usually checks out Goodreads first for reviews and the summary of a book before actually reading it. But sometimes spontaneity can be good, and the unknown is a welcome change of pace. That’s what I felt when I picked up this book on a whim – an unexpected surprise.
Seeking Mansfield is supposed to be a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, which I have not read yet, for the record. With that being said, the storyline felt authentic and – I know I might’ve used this line other reviews before but still – it’s unlike anything I’ve read from a young-adult novel.
Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.
Oh, to read of dreams and ambitions and stars aligning. Besides boasting a strong storyline, the book also boasts a strong protagonist. I loved reading about Finley Price and her life with her adoptive family, the Bertrams. I thought the author executed Finley’s struggle with chasing her dreams very well and very well-realised. I could almost imagine putting myself in her shoes. I liked her maturity all throughout the story.
Oliver was also another character highlight for me albeit he had less screen time.
When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.
And here’s where it gets really interesting. Besides this being your typical coming-of-age story, there’s also some great exposition and commentary on living a celebrity life. A few Hollywood-ish books I’ve read focused more on the glitz and glamour side of the story, but this book not only tackles that, but also the ugly side of fame and reality. When Emma and Harlan were introduced to Finley and Oliver, things pretty much picked up from there.
But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.
The reason why I say this book comes as a surprise to me is because of its depth and maturity as a story, which I don’t usually expect coming out of a young-adult novel. Though few try to hit the mark, they don’t quite exactly grasp that coming-of-age essence and the urgency of it all. And Seeking Mansfield, for me was a close home run.
Overall, I highly recommend you check this book out this month. It’s a special story that resonated with me so deeply. And if you’re bold enough to do so, dive in headfirst.