Books & Literature

Book Review: Emmett, by L. C. Rosen

YOUNG ADULT: A modern-day gay Emma, with the spikey social critique of Austen plus the lush over-the-top romance of Bridgerton suitable for those who loved Red, White and Royal Blue.

A fresh and modern retelling of Austin's Emma, which may help those struggling with their identity.

Feature image credit: Allen & Unwin

New Yorker L. C. Rosen is the author of several books for all ages including the young adult novels, Jack of Hearts and Camp.  Rosen writes about what he knows and as some characters struggle with their sexuality, others seem assured and ready to face the world. This is true with all teens, whether straight or from the queer world. Rosen himself came out at as gay at the age of 13 and attended private school, much like his lead character in Emmett.

Emmett Woodhouse at 17 is confident, good looking, clever, and has already been accepted into his chosen university. Everything seems perfect. But as we learn more about Emmett, we realise that he is struggling with things like everyone else. He is just better at hiding them. His father is still mourning the death of his mother, is over-protective, and constantly worrying that something will also happen to his only son. But because Emmett knows he is privileged, he tries to give back by doing charity work and always trying to be “nice.” Emmett is confident in his body and with his life choices and tries to help those who are still learning and discovering who they are.

If you have read Emma by Jane Austin, you will find many parallels. Like the character of Emma, Emmet takes an active interest in matchmaking his friends, which also leads to problems. And like Emma, Emmett finds it difficult to see what has been right under his nose all the time. Although Emmett is set in modern America, both books deal with the upper class of society: those who have time, money, and privileges. Both have a father who obsesses about making sure everyone is healthy

Other parallels present in both stories include the theme of helping those beneath your station to make you feel good about yourself. Both Emmett and Emma both eventually realise that they need to allow people to make their own choices. Other similarities are Miss Bayes (in Emma) and Georgia. They both ramble on incessantly, and are often quite annoying.

What Rosen has done is bring this old story into the modern era and set it in the world of those discovering their queer identity. This book also never talks about not being accepted. Everyone is equal and loved for who they are. It is about finding your tribe.

There are lessons to be learnt from Emmett. Sometimes, even though we want the best for those we love, we need to allow them to make their own mistakes. These mistakes allow us to grow and hopefully become better. It also looks at guilt for the past and for the future, and how we cannot let it take over our lives.

Emmett, at 259 pages, is a good length for any young adult reader. Each character is well rounded with both strengths and flaws. Sometimes they may seem too self-aware and accepting. There’s the feeling that the world may not always be this kind. Even though Emmett is sightly obsessive, the story does not get too bogged down with his constant worrying about other people. Each one of the 11 chapters is quite long, but there are sometimes breaks along the way.

For those struggling with their identity, or who have friends who need support, this is a story that may help.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: November 2023
RRP: $19.99

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