Blair Thornburgh’s second novel, Ordinary Girls, is a delightful, contemporary take on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with a bit of Brontë sprinkled in for fun.
Plum and her older sister, Ginny, live in an old house along with their widowed mom, an assortment of pets and a gay doctoral student in music whom they call “Almost-Doctor Andrew.” Unlike the sisters in Austen’s novel, it’s not the death of their father but a plumbing disaster—combined with a publishing demise—that precipitates their family’s financial ruin. Their mother learns that the popular children’s book series she illustrated is being reissued for its 25th anniversary with a new artist. The result? No more royalties.
For high school senior Ginny, who’s caught up in the pressure of college admissions, the weight of social expectations has become nearly unbearable. Like Marianne in Austen’s novel, she loses herself and even has a frightening brush with death.
Early on, however, it’s the plumbing situation that propels Plum outside her self-imposed cocoon. A loud sophomore boy named Tate Kurokawa offers Plum the use of his family’s shower. From there, Plum ends up tutoring Tate in English (her foray into governessing), and the two seemingly mismatched teens begin to make surprising discoveries about each other and themselves.
Although Thornburgh’s intended audience is young adults, Ordinary Girls is a romantic comedy that’s perfect for adult Janeites. So if you’re looking for a gift for a sister or a friend who loves books about people who love books, pick up this humorous, heartwarming tale by a very talented novelist.