Pride Reads 2024: “Most Ardently” by Gabe Cole Novoa

Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa
Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa

Gabe Cole Novoa has penned a refreshing take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In this recreation of the classic novel of manners, a trans man seeks a life without societal restrictions. Titled Most Ardently, the story is a remarkable addition to the Young Adult (YA) remixed classics series.

I should disclose that I have not read anything by Jane Austen. I know little about Pride and Prejudice. However, that didn’t deter me from reading Most Ardently. I’ve been enjoying and admiring the recent remixes of classic literature, including So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow (Little Women) and Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore (The Great Gatsby). If you don’t know what a remix is, let me explain.

Distinct from a retelling/reimagining of a classic story, a remix is told through a marginalized perspective. Written by marginalized authors, these remixes of classic books provide a cultural lens long obscure/erased. As classic Western literature largely encompasses the white cis majority, these YA remixes serve to subvert Western colonial and patriarchal storytelling conventions. From what I’ve researched about the original Pride and Prejudice novel, Novoa’s remix does an excellent job of overturning the source’s themes on social power dynamics and maintaining a good reputation through a queer and trans lens.

The “Elizabeth Bennet” protagonist in this Pride and Prejudice remix is a trans man named Oliver. Disgusted with having to live as a woman and expected to marry a man for social status, Oliver yearns for a life where he could be himself. He sneaks out dressed as a young man and visits his good friend Charlotte, who is in a secret relationship with a married woman named Lu. The pressure from the social expectations emphasized by his mother breaks him further when she scolds him for declining proposals from male suitors. Oliver’s sister, Jane, is the only other person who knows about him (at the start of the story), but he doesn’t want to live a double life. He also doesn’t want to submit to marrying a man for safety.

And then he meets the seemingly arrogant and aloof Mr. Darcy. When Oliver sneaks out one night to explore the Bartholomew Fair as a man, he stumbles into Bingley (engaged to his sister Jane) and Mr. Darcy. As a man, Oliver enjoys Mr. Darcy’s company. However, Mr. Darcy exudes coldness when encountering Oliver presenting as a woman. As the two grow closer, Oliver is conflicted about revealing his secret to Mr. Darcy.

What’s particularly impressive about Most Ardently is the character dynamics. Oliver’s interactions with Mr. Darcy reveal the latter to be compassionate and fond of literature. When Oliver converses with Charlotte about his desire to fully live as himself at home and in public, Charlotte’s disagreement shows that she’d rather get married to secure her future and social status while continuing her relationship with Lu in private. Not only does the dialogue show character, but it also unravels the climate of a time and place in which queer and trans people live private lives. The novel mentions and describes Molly houses – places where queer men and genderqueer people can meet.

Regardless of whether you’re familiar with the original Pride and Prejudice, I highly recommend Novoa’s remix of it. His novel provides a well nuanced exploration of queer and trans lives during England’s Regency era.

Most Ardently is available from Feiwel and Friends and Macmillan.

Check out the author’s website here.

You can read more Pride Reads on The Geekiary here.

Also, please read and support works by queer and trans creators (indie and traditional), not just in June.

Author: Bradda M.

Bradda M. currently lives in Virginia. He teaches ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) at a public school and spends his free time reading and watching movies each night with his partner. For The Geekiary, he writes about webcomics and SFF media.

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