Fabulous Feminist Retelling of Emma || ARC Review: Off Script

I fell in love with Kate Watson’s writing with Lovestruck, which came out last year. So when I found Off Script on Netgalley, I snapped it up immediately. And I’m SO glad I did! This book was so much fun!

Title: Off Script
Author: Kate Watson
Publisher: Flux
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Genres: YA Romance, Retelling

I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Official Synopsis

Emma gets a Hollywood-tinged, feminist update in this funny and fierce retelling of Austen’s classic about a well-intentioned but tragically misguided matchmaker.

The summer after her first year of college, teen starlet Emma Crawford returns home to Manhattan to prepare for the role of a lifetime—and play career matchmaker to her friends. When Emma’s search for an assistant leads her to the wide-eyed Brittany Smith, Emma sees the big screen in the girl’s future. And because Emma knows best, she’s sure that steering Brittany onto the right path is all she needs to do to make her a star—even if Brittany doesn’t know it yet.

Emma’s plans start to unravel, however, when professional soccer player Liam Price re-enters her life. Not only is Liam her former best friend’s older brother, but he’s gorgeous, smart, and has no problem pointing out the (totally exaggerated) flaws in Emma’s plans. But as Emma comes in close contact with the darker side of Hollywood, she starts to question the glamorous world she’s always known and realizes her role in it needs to change—if she can find the courage to go off script.

Quick Thoughts

  • Full disclaimer, I think I’ve seen the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma once…a very long time ago—and I shamefully haven’t read the book yet. So I’ll probably reread this book once I’ve done that 😀 until then, I can’t say anything about the actual adaption side of this book.
  • EDIT: I watched Emma (starring Gwyneth Paltrow), and no, I hadn’t ever seen it before. IT WAS AMAZING. You need to see it. Also, Kate Watson got the contemporary-adapted characters SPOT ON. Holy cow it’s amazing.
  • There must have been a ton of research that went into this book to portray what the lifestyle of a celebrity is like. I was really impressed by the details, no matter how small, that were fit into this book to show Emma’s glam life.
  • The DRAMA in this book is absolutely delightful! The plot was fun and fast-paced, with plenty of tension to keep me turning the next page.
  • I love Kate Watson’s writing! It’s descriptive without feeling purple prose-y, direct and straight to the point, with hilarious dialogue and fun banter. I can’t get enough of it!

Lasting Impressions

I want to talk about so many things! I just don’t know where to start!

Probably with Emma herself. I was worried I would dislike her in the beginning, but her charm and earnestness, her selflessness, really wiped those worries away for me. She seems like this sassy, successful, perfect person on the outside, but on the inside she just wants to be needed and loved, the way she loves and needs those around her. Her development in this book from hard shell with overconfidence—while hiding her worries and vulnerabilities—to a person who feels she can take control of her life and dreams…is just perfect and beautiful.

The way Emma responds and interacts with the other characters around her too feels so realistic. Brittany Smith is a gem of a person, and Emma immediately taking to her makes so much sense. When Emma takes care of her brother Harlan (goll, he’s such a dirt bag, isn’t he?) her love for him really shows, but so does the complexity and toxicity of their relationship. Ditto with the relationship she has with her father. There are several secondary characters in this book, so I’m not going to hit upon all of them, but I never felt lost in a sea of names and connections. The author does a good job of helping the reader keep everyone straight.

But gasp I haven’t mentioned the romance yet! Shame on me. The romance is SO sweet and cute and heartwarming. Liam is such a wonderful guy who can call Emma out on her BS. I loved their interactions—and that ending… swoon it was to die for.

Along with all of this, Kate Watson takes on the themes of sexual assault in the film industry. I wasn’t expecting this, but I really liked how it was handled—with sensitivity and a strong sense of righteous injustice. The way she wove this into the story works so well with Emma’s character, and the characters that surround her. I loved it.

Overall Feelings

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was seriously spending every spare second reading this wonderful book. It’s romantic, hilarious, and thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it to fans of contemporary romance, especially those who enjoyed Emma. You won’t be disappointed.

Have you read Emma by Jane Austen? Are you looking forward to this retelling?

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