by Polly Shulman


by Polly Shulman



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"When someone asks for a reading suggestion, Enthusiasm is the first word off my tongue." --Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight

"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast."
Julie knows from bitter experience: her best friend, Ashleigh, is an Enthusiast. Ashleigh's current fancy is also Julie's own passion, Pride and Prejudice, and the heroine's quest for True Love. And so Julie finds herself swept along with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks and sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys' prep school. There they discover several likely candidates for True Love, including the handsome and sensitive Parr. And Julie begins to wonder if maybe this obsession of Ashleigh's isn't so bad after all. . . .

Fans of Jane Austen and Meg Cabot, and Maureen Johnson alike will swoon for Polly Shulman's charming novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101118825
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/06/2007
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 208
File size: 346 KB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Polly Shulman is also the author of The Grimm Legacy (a Bank Street Best Book and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Finalist) and its companion novel, The Wells Bequest. She has written for many newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Discover, Newsday, Salon, Slate, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Archaeology, and The Village Voice. She has never dared to crash a dance, but when she was in high school she sometimes wrote her math homework in rhyme and meter. She majored in math at Yale and grew up in New York City, where she lives with her husband in a tall old building guarded by gargoyles.

Read an Excerpt


By Polly Shulman

Putnam Juvenile

ISBN: 0-399-24389-5

Chapter One

"What good is a heroine without a hero? From what I remember of freshman year, we will be hard-pressed to find even a single gallant at Byzantium High. I despair of finding a pair of them there! But fortunately, I have discovered the answer."

Clearly Ashleigh had finished the research portion of her fad and moved on to the active stage. Now that she had decided to enact a 200-year-old love story with us as the heroines, I was afraid the results would be mortifying.

Without much hope, I tried to head her off. "I thought you despised boy-crazy girls like Michelle Jeffries and those people. You always said crushes were for noodleheads."

Ashleigh drew herself up to her full height, which I couldn't have done in her position-standing on my bed-since my head would have hit the sloping roof; her figure may be more mature than mine, but she's six inches shorter.

"I speak not of crushes, Miss Lefkowitz," she replied, "but of True Love."

True Love! What girl hasn't dreamed of that? Even the shyest among us longs for a soul mate-someone who will understand our hopes and fears, laugh at our jokes, offer us his coat when the afternoon turns cold, charm our parents, and admire us, flaws and all....

Yet if Ashleigh cherished a similar dream, I feared for her peace of mind. For is True Love likely to come to a high school sophomore who dresses in a chorus robe and ballet slippers?

"Okay, but listen, Ash," I said. "You're not planning to go to school wearing that, are you? No guy will even look at you." Me neither if they see me with you, I added inwardly. "Couldn't you please, please, please wear jeans?"

As always, my plea fell on deaf ears. "I see not the necessity of discussing with you, Miss Lefkowitz, the propriety of a young lady wearing Trousers. As you know, modesty forbids us to reveal the shape of the Lower Limbs."

If you do get a boyfriend, he's going to want to see a lot more than just the shape of your Lower Limbs, I argued silently. Fortunately, I reflected, the school year wouldn't start for another week-enough time, I hoped, to make her see reason.

"And don't you think you could call me Julie?" I continued. "We've known each other long enough, surely."

"My dearest Julia, you are right, indeed you are right. After all, in Pride and Prejudice Miss Elizabeth Bennet addresses her bosom friend, Miss Lucas, by the name of Charlotte, and they are no more affectionately attached than the two of us. But please, my dear friend, allow me to continue. As I said, I believe I have the solution to our puzzle of where to find our heroes."

"Our puzzle? It's not my puzzle," I put in.

Ashleigh shook me by the arm, letting her language slip a bit in her impatience. "Will you listen already? In Pride and Prejudice, where do the younger Bennet girls turn for lively masculine company? Why, to the regiment of soldiers quartered near their home. Were we to follow their lead, where better to seek suitors than among our neighboring young men in uniform?" ...

Forefield, an exclusive boys' prep school, rises above the town of Byzantium both geographically and socially. Its main building, once the mansion of the Forefield family, can be seen from most of the town, including my attic window. As a little girl I thought it was an enchanted castle, the home of a witch or a princess. I now considered it the home of gawky boys with crests embroidered on their blazer pockets-that is, of snobs, dorks, adders, or (most likely) snobbish, dorky adders....

"You want to crash the Snoot School Dork Dance? Are you out of your candy wrapper? What could that possibly have to do with Jane Austen?"

"Surely, Miss Lefkowitz, you can see that a gathering of young gentlemen dressed in formal attire, well practiced in time-honored dance steps, and unaccustomed to the company of young ladies-and therefore bound to treat us with modesty and respect-is the ideal place to meet our matches. Can you be blind to the perfection of the plan?"

Perfection! If the plan had any, I certainly was blind to it. In my experience, at least, boys who hadn't spent a lot of time around girls were less likely, not more, to behave themselves.


Excerpted from Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Time Magazine

"Enthusiasm has the makings of an instant classic. "

From the Publisher

"When someone asks for a reading suggestion, Enthusiasm is the first word off my tongue." —Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Saga

"Enthusiasm, like Pride and Prejudice, bubbles over with romantic misunderstandings and comic confusion." —New York Times Book Review,an Editors' Choice book

"Enthusiasm has the makings of an instant classic!" —Time magazine

"A fanciful romance . . . delightfully wholesome." —Newsday

*"Wry [and] engaging . . . an impressive first novel."—Booklist, starred review

"A charming romantic comedy!"—SLJ

"Witty exchanges, comic errors and miscommunications that could be taken right out of a Jane Austen novel. Readers [will be] caught up in this debut novel's romantic whimsy and humor."—Publishers Weekly

"Equal parts romance and farce, this novel is an enjoyable read. Julie's wry voice and self-deprecating humor will make the conclusion satisfying."—VOYA


Reading Group Guide

Little-known facts about Enthusiasm and Jane Austen

*Jane Austen’s niece, Anna, wrote a novel called Enthusiasm, which she sent to her aunt. Jane had many encouraging things to say, including suggesting that Anna change the title to Which is the Heroine?

*The character of Charles Grandison Parr—or Parr for Short—was named after Sir Charles Grandison, the hero of Samuel Richardson’s 1753 novel of that name and one of Jane Austen’s favorite literary characters.

*Jane Austen published her novels anonymously, as was the custom of female writers at the time.

*Like many of Austen’s heroines, Jane herself turned down an offer of marriage that would have allowed her to live a more comfortable life and be less dependent on her family. In the end, she never married.

The Life and Legacy of Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775–1817) lived her entire life in the English countryside with her mother, father, sister, and two brothers. She never married nor ventured far from the confines of her family’s home, yet she wrote some of the most enduring novels of her time, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma.

When Jane Austen penned her first novel in 1789, little did she know that the stories she acted out in her drawing room with her sister and brothers would affect popular culture hundreds of years later. Dozens of movie adaptations of her novels have been made and continue to be popular, starring actors such as Keira Knightley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant. Her writing has inspired other books as well, such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jane Austen Book Club, and Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating.



Polly Shulman has written about edible jellyfish, Egyptian tombs, infinity, blind dates, books, brains, centenarians, circuses, and cinematic versions of Jane Austen novels, for The New York Times, Discover,Newsday, Salon, Slate, Scientific American, Archaeology, and The Village Voice, among others. She edits news stories about fossils, meteors, the ocean, the weather, and the

She is an alumna of Hunter College High School, Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics, and Yale University, where she majored in math. She has never dared to crash a dance, but in tenth grade she did write a proof for math class in the form of a sonnet. She grew up in New York City, where she lives with her husband, Andrew Nahem, and their parakeet, Olive. planets for Science magazine. She collects Victorian jewelry made of human hair, puts cayenne pepper in her chocolate cookies, and reads forgotten books with frontispieces.


  • Why do you think Jane Austen and her books have endured as long as they have? Why do Jane Austen’s stories translate so well into modern stories?
  • Have you ever read any of Jane Austen’s books? If so, what similarities and differences do you see between Austen’s works and Enthusiasm?
  • “There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast.” Do you know/have known an enthusiast? Were you ever one yourself? Although Julie complains about her friend’s enthusiasm, what admirable qualities can be found in Ashleigh’s exuberance?
  • If you could produce a movie based on a Jane Austen story, which would you choose and from what angle would you approach it: Comedy or drama? Present day or historical setting?
  • Have you ever had a crush on the same person as your best friend? If so, what happened?
  • Throughout the story Julie is careful to point out what a good friend Ashleigh is to her. Unfortunately, Ashleigh’s not always a very good listener. At the same time, Julie is keeping secrets from Ashleigh. Could you still say they are great friends? Why or why not?
  • Class was an important issue for people in Jane Austen’s time. In what ways does the issue of class/money come up in Enthusiasm?
  • Do you think Julie handles her relationship with her stepmother well? What could Julie and her stepmother do to improve their relationship?

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