Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
Enthusiasm sums up the way I feel about this book! It's a rooted-in-Jane-Austen one. Julie's best friend Ashleigh is "The Enthusiast" - when she takes an interest in something (whether it's candy making, a new band, or King Arthur), she becomes obsessed - living and breathing (and talking, dressing, and acting) it. When Julie introduces her to the novels of Miss Austen, Ashleigh is convinced that a) they shouldn't be showing their Lower Limbs and b) they need to find their own versions of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. Fortunately, the local boys' private school, Forefield, is having a ball - surely they can find some gowns and crash the party!
They manage to get into the dance with the help of vintage dresses from Julie's mom's shop and because two young gentlemen, Grandison Parr and Ned Downing, rescue them from the turkey-faced staff member guarding the door. After that, the boys are part of Julie and Ashleigh's lives, especially when the try out for the girls' parts in the upcoming Forefield play. But some miscommunications make Julie wonder who Ashleigh thinks is her Mr. Darcy - the divine Parr or friendly Ned. Ashleigh pines for Parr, but is convinced that he likes Ashleigh and vice versa, so she stays silent because she wants to be a good friend.
Enthusiasm is lovely, charming and old-fashioned. It was so nice to read a YA novel that wasn't full of drugs and raunch (it's just become so prevalent that it's getting tiresome). Kissing - just kissing - is a huge deal in this one. The boys are also well-mannered and courtly (except for one sleazy playboy who is regarded with disgust) - Parr even writes poetry!
Ashleigh is a wonderful character, so full of energy and zest. And she and Julie have such a wonderful friendship - there's no backstabbing or mean girlness. Just the thought of hurting the other, even if it's not the case, upsets each girl terribly. And I loved that they visited each other by climbing the tree between their houses and entering through their bedroom windows. Highly recommended.