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Based on the Emmy Award-winning “genius” (The Guardian) web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this is a new novel starring Lizzie’s spunky sister Lydia as she navigates the joys and pitfalls of becoming an adult in the digital age.
Before her older sister, Lizzie, started her wildly popular vlog, Lydia was just a normal twenty-year-old plotting the many ways she could get away with skipping her community college classes and finding the perfect fake ID. She may not have had much direction, but she loved her family and had plenty of fun. Then Lizzie’s vlog turned the Bennet sisters into Internet sensations, and Lydia basked in the attention as people watched, debated, tweeted, tumblr’d, and blogged about her life. But not all attention is good…
After her ex-boyfriend, George Wickham took advantage of Lydia’s newfound web-fame, betrayed her trust, and destroyed her online reputation, she’s no longer a naïve, carefree girl. Now, Lydia must work to win back her family’s trust and respect and find her place in a far more judgmental world.
Told in Lydia’s distinctive, eccentric, and endearing voice, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet picks up right where The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet left off and “offers a fresh take on Pride and Prejudice without ruining it” (The Washington Post, on The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet). Featuring fresh twists, wonderful new characters, and scores of hilarious texts, doodles, and tweets, The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet takes you behind the webcam and into the lives of your favorite sisters in a way that’s sure to satisfy existing fans and delight new ones.
About the Author
Rachel Kiley is a writer for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. She lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet
There’s one scene at the end of almost every made-for-TV movie.
You know the one: the big dramatic emotional confrontation happens, fade out, and before the credits speed by with a promo for the next show, you’re forced to watch a minute of the super-traumatized young woman (and it’s always a young woman) sitting in a cozy office with wood paneling and dead, dried flowers, being prompted by some cross-legged PhD to start telling her story and working through her issues so she can get on with her life. That one.
I’ve always hated that scene.
But I guess that’s my life. A low-budget cable-channel movie you watch half-asleep at 3:00 a.m. because you’re too hungover to remember where the remote is.
Pretty freaking lame, huh?
I mean, it could be worse. At least my life has the unmistakable benefit of starring the one and only Lydia Bennet, aka me. Not some former Disney channel star struggling to prove she can handle “real drama” so one day she might be “taken seriously” as an “actress.”
Fine, and therapy—okay, counseling—isn’t all that bad, it turns out. It’s actually kind of nice talking to someone about your life and knowing they aren’t going to act like you’re some stupid overemotional kid or butt in with dumb opinions when they don’t even know anything about you.
In real life, anyway. I still think that’s an idiotic way to wrap up a movie. Because that’s not the end. If anything, it’s the start of the sequel.
Problems aren’t magically solved just because you throw out some societally approved ideas for how to fix them. Putting things back together is always harder and more complicated than breaking them.
I should know. I’m excellent at breaking things.
“Have you heard anything about your college application?”
So, yeah. Counseling. I’m in that. Like, right now.
I shrugged. “They sent me some more forms. Still collecting my thoughts about it.”
My counselor, Ms. Winters, reminds me of my oldest sister, Jane, in certain ways. As kind and patient as Ms. W can be, like Jane, you just get this feeling she could break someone in half for looking at her wrong if she wanted to.
Although Ms. W is overall less prancing chipmunks and double rainbows than Jane. And she’s never once offered me tea.
I miss Jane.
Ms. W seems to be pretty good at what she does, and she’s freakishly insightful sometimes. It’s that insight that made me think I might be good at counseling, too—from the counselor’s side of it, I mean.
So I thought if I wanted to go into psychology, maybe become a counselor or a therapist or whatevs myself, it couldn’t hurt to try to learn a few techniques from her. Learn . . . copy right in front of her during our sessions . . . whatever you want to call it. She’s never said anything about my mimicking, but I sometimes wonder if she thinks I’m crazy. Like The Roommate crazy (that’s Single White Female crazy for those not versed in popular teen movie rip-offs about stalking people and taking over their lives). Either way, that could be a fun twist.
I probably shouldn’t mention that to anyone.
“I’ve just been really busy getting ready for summer classes tomorrow and prepping for Mary to move in, and with Lizzie leaving today . . .” I could already hear Ms. Winters in my head as I rambled (I see. So it’s all external factors holding you back, then?), but it was the best I could do. “I’ve still got a few weeks. Nothing to worry about!”
Yep. Summer classes. Such is my curse. You see, I kind of . . . didn’t finish up all the credits I was supposed to during the spring semester. It sucks, but it’s not like the end of the world. I had my reasons for missing classes. But now I’ve gotta spend the summer taking two more courses so I can claim my associate degree and transfer to Central Bay College in the fall. Happy summer vacation to me.
Ms. Winters scribbled something into her notebook without looking down or away from me at all. She kept staring, most likely trying to read my mind or some other counseling voodoo (seriously, not convinced there isn’t witchcraft behind it all—and I so better get to learn that in college if there is). I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say something else, so I just waited.
“Lydia, you know I’m not here to tell you what to do.” Yes, you are. “But as challenging as some of your classes here have been, if you’re serious about going into psychology, this next level of work is going to be even more difficult. And the one after that, and the real world after that. I want to make sure we’re setting you up with the tools you need to succeed.”
I wrinkled my nose. Did she think I couldn’t do it? Wasn’t she, like, paid to believe in me?
“It isn’t that I don’t think you’re absolutely capable of this, because you are.” (Okay, seriously? Mind voodoo.) “I just want to make sure you understand you’re going into something that’s going to take a lot more effort and preparation than just filling out an application.”
“Pfft. Don’t worry, Ms. W. You and I both know there’s nothing to this whole psychology/counseling thing. I’ve got it down.”
“Oh, there isn’t?” Ms. W said, smiling. “Then let’s try something. If you think you’ve ‘got it down,’ try putting yourself in my shoes. If you were acting as your own counselor, what questions would you ask yourself?”
“Like, how can the world handle two doses of mega-adorbs without imploding?”
“Something like that,” said Ms. Winters. “But maybe at least a few questions you think would lead to answers that could help you. Or maybe just a list of questions that would help, in their own way. Do you think you’d be up for that?”
“Please. Lists are my specialty.” I corrected myself: “One of many.”
“Good. I’ll see you here next Sunday? With the questions?”
“Don’t we have that special session on Tuesday?” I asked.
“That’s right,” she said, as if she’d forgotten, but she definitely hadn’t. I normally only have counseling on Sundays, but this week being this week . . . “See you Tuesday, then?”
I nodded and grabbed my things as Ms. Winters went to hold the door open for me on my way out. She always does that. I haven’t figured out what kind of psychology trick it is yet, but I will.
“Oh, Lydia? If you need to pop in unscheduled this week, don’t be afraid to, all right?”
“I know. Thanks.”
“And you can always text, too. You have my number.”
“That I do.”
I stepped out into the hallway and heard that generic click of a door closing behind me.
It’s strange to think of summer classes starting tomorrow, seeing as how I’ve still been coming to the school for these counseling sessions every week since the spring semester let out. It feels like everything is running together, no clearly defined end and beginning with a break in between. I guess that’s what life will always feel like once I’m finally done with school.
Not that that will happen any time soon.
I’ve been at this lame community college for three years now. More than three, once you count the upcoming summer session. I’m not a ditz or anything; school was usually just so boring. Academics were always my sister Lizzie’s thing. Art and fashion and that sort of creativity is Jane’s. And mine is . . . partying. Interacting with humanity. Socializing, drinking, going out. The fun stuff. The cool stuff.
Or was. I haven’t really done that in a while.
It’s just that, being a third-year student in a two-year school, literally all my friends have left town at this point. And I mean, how can you party alone? Solo partying would basically be the definition of lame. If it wasn’t for that, I’d so be out there painting the town pink (a way better color than red; “painting the town red” sounds like you’re bleeding everywhere, and I certainly don’t see how that sounds like anything fun or cool).
That’s all. NBD.
So I just gotta rededicate. “Hunker down,” as my dad always says. Do well in these last summer courses, (finally) move on to a real college near where Lizzie will be, and make awesome new friends I can party with—while still proving myself to be a responsible college student/kind of technically an adult.
That’s the plan, anyway. Sounds easy enough, right?
And the first step is preparing for class. Which means school supplies. Which I should probably go buy.
See? Responsibility. What up?
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with authors Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s timeless novel, Bernie Su and Kate Rorick created a modern-day Pride and Prejudice with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet. Now, Rorick and Rachel Kiley tell the story of Lydia Bennet, never before explored in the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series.
Before her older sister, Lizzie, started her wildly popular vlog, Lydia was just a normal twenty-year-old obsessed with partying, shopping, and getting away with doing as little work as possible while still having maximum fun. But once Lizzie’s vlog turned the lives of the Bennet sisters into an Internet sensation, Lydia quickly realized that all the attention coming her way as people watched, debated, tweeted, and blogged about her life was not always good.
After her ex-boyfriend George Wickham exploited her newfound web-fame, betrayed her trust, and destroyed her online reputation, naïve, carefree Lydia was no more. Now she must work to win back her family’s respect and find her place in a far more judgmental world.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. This novel expands on storylines documented in The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and the YouTube series while retaining the plotlines and character archetypes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Discuss how the authors make Lydia’s circumstances contemporary while still drawing on source material from the nineteenth century.
2. Think about Lydia’s attraction to psychology, taking into account her eagerness to be respected by her professor in class, as well as her relationship with her therapist, Ms. W. What do you think draws her to this field? How does she apply the concepts she learns (for instance, Pavlov’s dogs and the Milgram experiment) to her own life?
3. Why do you think Lydia does not try to take down the incriminating videos of her past? Do you think it’s possible to “rewrite your history” in this day and age? How does the permanence of the Internet affect our society? How has it affected your life?
4. Discuss Lydia’s relationship with her parents. How do you think their support helps or hinders Lydia’s journey? How is Lizzie’s relationship with her parents (from the previous book) like and unlike Lydia’s?
5. How do Mary and Lydia act as foils to each other, particularly in social settings? How do they complement and push each other to grow as people? Give a few examples from the text.
6. Lydia is grappling with her identity after hitting rock bottom and is newly motivated to be a hardworking student. However, this role is still very new to her, and she is alternately disappointed and heartened by her performance in different classes. Talk about a time when you decided to change your life—how easy was it to enact new goals and ambitions, and how did you overcome hurdles along the way?
7. At a party Lydia attends in New York, guests adopt the personalities of different characters for the entire evening and, at the end of the night, share their characters’ secrets and then burn them. How is this both therapeutic and cathartic to Lydia? How does it parallel the new “character” she is trying to be in her own life?
8. On page 92, Lydia says, “There’s this weird thing that happens when everything falls apart. […] Your body, the normal one you live in every day, sort of starts to exist apart from you. You’re still there, of course. […] But it all goes on autopilot, getting you through the days while you . . . contract.” Discuss how detachment and self-sabotage come into play while Lydia tries to reacclimate herself to the real world after this traumatic event. Can you relate to Lydia’s feeling of sometimes being on “autopilot”? How so?
9. In The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, which takes place before this novel, older sister Lizzie feels that she has failed Lydia, realizing after she learns of her sister’s sex tape “that Lydia has never been told that she is loved exactly as she is.” Now seeing the story from Lydia’s perspective, how much of this still rings true? How does Lydia crave love, and how does she receive it from her parents, Lizzie, and Jane?
10. Discuss how Lydia is manipulated by the men in her life, Cody as well as George. Lydia declares on page 155: “Here’s the thing about good guys. They don’t tell you they’re good guys.” How is this true or untrue in your experience? How are Cody and George harmful to Lydia in their own distinct ways?
11. Lydia realizes that there are so many people in the world who know her from her sister’s vlog and her tape scandal, and yet these commenters are faceless to her. What do you believe is the function of anonymity on the Internet, especially in commenting communities? What are the positive and negative possibilities for anonymous communication online?
12. Think about Lydia’s relationship with Lizzie and with Jane. Lizzie is absent for much of this novel, yet Lydia often compares herself to her. Alternatively, Lydia seems to blossom in a new way when she visits Jane in New York. Discuss the ways Lydia compares herself to her sisters—is it internally or externally motivated? If you have siblings, do you relate to Lydia’s relationships with her sisters?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Watch a few Lizzie Bennet Diaries YouTube videos and then have a look at the comments below. Discuss in your group how comments can be constructive or destructive, and how they act as a form of instant feedback.
2. Try making a YouTube video with your group! React to the book and speak to the ways vlogs and social media impact the narrative. Invite your friends to join in the conversation!
3. If you were going to write a book from another Lizzie Bennet Diaries character’s point of view, whose would it be? Bring in a chapter to share with the group.
A Conversation with Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley
Why did you decide to continue the Bennet story beyond The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet? What was it like to delve into territory not previously covered in the web series?
Rachel: We told Lydia’s story alongside Lizzie’s for certain parts of the web series with her own series, The Lydia Bennet! We actually had one more set of her episodes written that wound up not being shot for various reasons, so her arc always felt like it had been left somewhat incomplete. Personally, a lot of the writing I did on the show was for Lydia’s series, and most of that was just made up outside the confines of adapting Pride and Prejudice, so expanding her story from there into a novel (which included some of the things previously written for the episodes we didn’t shoot—the scene between Lydia and Wickham, for example, is almost identical to one of the unshot episodes) wasn’t very different from what my work on the show had already been. Just more novel-y.
Why did you choose to focus on Lydia in this story, rather than continue with Lizzie’s perspective? Did you research any real-life events to create Lydia’s storyline in this novel?
Kate: When we finished the web series, everyone’s story had been neatly wrapped up. Except for Lydia’s. When we leave her at the end of the series, she’s still in the emotional aftermath of the sex tape. There was a vague sense that she was going to be all right, but we didn’t know how she would get there. When we talked about the idea of doing a sequel to The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Lydia was the first and foremost on our minds. Plus, her voice and personality are such a standout that of course she has to get her own story! As for drawing from real-life events, Rachel and I drew a lot of inspiration from our own lives. We both spent years in New York City. And I did have a Gothic Literature class in college. I never really understood the lure of Dracula.
The subject matter (particularly the sex tape) in Epic Adventures is extremely relevant to readers now—how difficult was it to incorporate elements from Pride and Prejudice into this very 2015 story?
Kate: In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia causes a scandal by eloping with George Wickham, which causes a rift between Lizzy and Darcy just as they are getting close. In modern times, eloping with someone is not necessarily scandal-causing. We needed a public scandal that resonated for today—and since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was informed and influenced by the fact that it was happening online, having the scandal be on the Internet felt right.
However, we’ve always said that the biggest change we made with the storyline was not the sex tape, but the fact that we actually liked Lydia. We related to her better in LBD than we did in P&P because she’s closer to Lizzie/y. We watch her be vulnerable and get her heart broken in a way that the brash Lydia from P&P never shows.
At one point in the novel, Lydia expresses her anxiety about all the people in the world who now know her from her sister’s vlog and her sex tape scandal. Have you ever felt vulnerable or excited putting a piece of work online, knowing it will receive an immediate response? How do you feel about the anonymity of the Internet community?
Rachel: A lot of what college/general writing experience teaches you as a writer is to accept and withstand criticism, but it seems like everything online now becomes so personal. It’s not just “This piece of work sucks, here’s why,” but instead often turns into “YOU ARE THE LITERAL SCUM OF THE EARTH FOR WRITING THIS.” We (and by “we” I mostly mean me since I was the only one dumb enough to pay attention to things online) dealt with that on LBD to, I think, a much lesser extent than I’ve seen TV writers deal with it, and watching writers I admire on shows I watch get responses like that is terrifying. I don’t read stuff about my writing online anymore because even more than sometimes turning into personal attacks, which you can eventually learn to shrug off, it also sometimes makes you question what you’re writing, and if you’re in the middle of a story, changing it as you go to react to one fan’s criticism here or another fan’s criticism there just muddies everything up. It’s a weird balance to try to navigate.
Kate: Rachel is absolutely right in that to be a writer you have to be able to take criticism—and that was true long before the Internet. But the Internet does make it more immediate, and often true criticism gets lost in the noise. You just have to know that you can’t please everyone, and if you try, you’ll drive yourself crazy and probably harm your work. To be on the Internet in any capacity now, you have to have a very thick skin—which was something Lydia had to develop once the sex tape happened.
Both of you were also writers on the Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series. How is writing the Bennet story in a novel format different from writing a web series?
Rachel: You go from having talented actors who can convey the emotions and layers you’re trying to get across in a scene to actually having to find the words to do it yourself, which, after years and years of training yourself not to use adjectives or get too descriptive in sentences (aka screenwriting), can be very daunting. I’ve hardly written any prose since probably middle school—all my experience is in screenwriting, or really crappy poetry in high school—so having Kate there was incredibly helpful in the whole process since she knows what she’s doing. Plus the web series was literally just people talking to a camera, which is a whole separate beast from most storytelling of any type.
Kate: I’ve written both books and TV screenwriting for a while now, and I’ve actually come to the conclusion that they aren’t as different as we think they are. When I’m trying to put together a scene, I hear the character in my head, I play out the scene, I notice what they would notice. The novel is of course much longer—a lot less white space on the page—but you still have to justify every word you put down, every scene driving the story forward.
Now that you’ve explored the perspectives of two Bennet sisters, which one do you think you relate to more and why? Are you like Lizzie in some ways and Lydia in others?
Rachel: I kind of talk like Lydia (possibly a product of writing for her for so long), but I don’t particularly relate to her too much. There are always small similarities you find as a way to delve into every character you write, but I’ve always probably related most to Mary, Darcy, and, in certain non-creepy ways, even Wickham.
Kate: I’m a straight-up Lizzie. While there are certain things about our Lydia I definitely relate to—her tendency to pretend everything is okay, for example—I’ve been an Elizabeth Bennet wannabe since I was fifteen.
Do you have any plans to continue telling the story of the Bennet sisters beyond this book, whether in the form of a novel or a continuing web series?
Rachel: I don’t know what Pemberley Digital has in store, but personally I feel like Lydia’s story has gone as far as we can take it without beating a dead horse (sorry, Mr. Wuffles). At a certain point, you have to say good-bye to your characters and let the rest of their lives be left to the imagination. Or kill them off, but that would probably be an odd twist in this genre. (Or would it?!?)
Kate: I can’t speak for what Pemberley Digital has in mind, either, but I’d like to think that if we left our characters here, we know that they’re going to be okay, leading happy, fulfilling, and slightly wacky existences. And in the end, that’s what we want from a story, right?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am very, very happy that I decided to read this book. Lydia has always been a character I hated, but after reading this I actually understand, care, and like her a lot. All of the characters, especially the one's we have never met before, were all very well-developed and believable. I enjoyed Lydia's story a thousand times more than I thought I would and for once, I actually think book 2 in a series was better than book 1. Check this series out!