Review: PRIDE by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count: 304
Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Series: Standalone
Rating: 3/5 Stars – Liked It

pride-by-ibi-zoboiZuri Benitez is one of five sisters living in a tiny apartment in Bushwick, New York. It’s crowded, but Zuri loves the atmosphere and feel of her Afro-Latino neighborhood, and is increasingly resentful of the gentrification that is encroaching into the area.  So when a new family turns an abandoned building into a mini-mansion and moves in across the street, it’s only a mild relief to learn the new neighbors are black. They’re obviously extremely wealthy and don’t fit in with the culture of the Bushwick.  But Zuri’s sister Janae is immediately smitten with Ainsley Darcy, one of the two brothers, forcing Zuri to spend time with his brother Darius.  Darius makes it clear from the moment he shows up that he finds Bushwick beneath him, and Zuri has no time for anyone who looks down on her corner of the world. Zuri must navigate this new dynamic in the neighborhood while applying to college, looking out for her other sisters, and deciding if Darius’s classmate Warren is dating material.

The best parts of this book are Zoboi’s odes to the city, particularly the neighborhoods that are clearly near and dear to her heart.  Zoboi gives them a music and a rhythm and makes it clear that while they aren’t perfect, these streets are Home.  I also really liked the way she adapted the original PRIDE AND PREJUDICE into modern-day Brooklyn, twisting balls into house parties and tours of estates into college visits.  It all feels natural, and I enjoyed following the road map of the story in my head and seeing how the author had reinterpreted different beats.

Where the story fell flat for me was unfortunately in the lead characters, particularly Zuri.  It’s written into the canon that the original Elizabeth and Darcy are flawed characters – it’s right there in the title of the book.  But whereas Elizabeth worked her way up from annoyed indifference to outright hatred of Mr. Darcy, Zuri starts despising Darius from the second he steps out of his car   There’s a reason this retelling is simply called PRIDE; both Zuri and Darius have different versions in it, and Zuri’s pride is in her neighborhood and the need to defend it from anyone who would change or threaten it (in this case, Darius).  As a result, I felt more annoyed at than sympathetic with Zuri, as her pride made her attack the Darcy family from the get-go.  The story also left me feeling that her relationship with Darius was ping-ponging all over the place.  One minute she hated him, the next she liked him because he seemed more relaxed in a different location. In the strictest sense, the story works through the same relationship beats as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but because of the way the story was breezed through, those beats felt a bit more like check boxes than a natural evolution.

PRIDE is a retelling that works best when it is focusing on the  modern day parts of its reinterpretation, the love letter to a specific time and place.  It creates a great sense of atmosphere, and I really enjoyed those parts.  Unfortunately, the characterizations just didn’t work for me.  While I appreciate what the author was trying to accomplish, there was something hollow in the characters that didn’t click.  An excellent read about a way of life, but not a swoon-worthy romance.

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