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 and godparents’ son, Oliver Bertram. Since Finley moved in with her godparents after the death of her father, she and Oliver have grown close. If Finley 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. But when teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move across the street from the Bertram’s, they shake up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Finley realizes that Harlan Os attention is shifting to her. She discovers she might have feelings for him too. Or, is she only interested in Harlan because Oliver is taken? 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.
I would like to preface the review with the fact that I haven’t read the original Mansfield Park but I am familiar with the plotline. Now, Seeking Mansfield is a modern retelling of Mansfield Park, and on the whole I was very much impressed with it. It takes the storyline of MP and gives us Finley, a parental abuse survivor who is living with her godparents and throughout the book, learns what it means to stand up for herself and where to allow people to support you. It retains much of the original storyline, and involves a complicated love rhombus or something, and is a good retelling.
Finley’s situation with her godparents is such that she feels indebted to them, and always thinks first of their comforts than her own. Now, with the exception of their daughter and the aunt, they are all good to her and protective about her. But the aunt – yeesh! She is a terrible woman, and constantly makes Finley feel like an orphan. The star siblings, Emma and Harlan are snobbish but charming, but kind of controlling, which Oliver and Fin, respectively, take some time to understand. Both of them have feelings for each other but run’s into the respective siblings’ arms because they think it is a safer choice. In case of Finley, specifically, Harlan brings out a different, more confident side of her, but ultimately she can’t take his betrayal. The story delves into relationships and how they change a person, and to what extent leaning on someone is healthy, and when protectiveness becomes suffocating.
The writing is fluid, and shifts well enough between the two perspectives of Finley and Oliver. The author also spends good amount of time building up the relationships and showing how it worked and how it did not. It touches upon PTSD, addiction, and morality in relationships, as well as how intense family can be. Recommended, especially, for contemporary fans and Austenites alike.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Flux, via Netgalley.