By the Book: A Novel of Prose and Cons (Paperback)

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By the Book: A Novel of Prose and Cons By Amanda Sellet Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

In Amanda Sellet’s YA debut, Mary Porter-Malcolm is the new girl at the public school. She is kind and awkward, a bookworm from a literary family who speaks like it’s 1800 and relates better to book characters than her IRL classmates. At first, I found her a bit too uncomfortable, until I realized she reminded me of myself at 15…but I digress. After a disastrous first day, Mary overhears three girls – Lydia, Arden, and Terry - discussing the school’s romantic prospects. When she warns that Terry’s apparent crush is “a Vronsky” and to be avoided, the other girls are confused and fascinated. They integrate Mary into their group and develop The Scoundrel Survival Guide based on literature’s most infamous rogues, cads, and Lotharios. The girls are supportive, fun, and fiercely loyal; in return for her wisdom, they plot Mary’s ‘debut season,’ full of shopping and sleep-overs, and culminating with the Winter Formal. Things become more complicated when “The Vronsky” (aka Alex Ritter) befriends Mary and she finds herself falling for him. Is it possible that Mary cast him as a villain without understanding him, thus giving poor advice to her new friends? And does that make Mary more of an Emma than she realized? Just what would Jane Austen do? I adore Mary; the trio made me laugh and wish I could high-five them, especially Lydia; the Porter-Malcolm family is complicated, but provide Greek Choir-like insight, assistance, and humor; and the romances in the book are sweet, but ultimately take a second seat to the bonds of friendship and trusting yourself

— From Ashleigh


In this clever YA rom-com debut perfect for fans of Kasie West and Ashley Poston, a teen obsessed with nineteenth-century literature tries to cull advice on life and love from her favorite classic heroines to disastrous results—especially when she falls for the school’s resident Lothario.

Mary Porter-Malcolm has prepared for high school in the one way she knows how: an extensive review of classic literature to help navigate the friendships, romantic liaisons, and overall drama she has come to expect from such an “esteemed” institution.

When some new friends seem in danger of falling for the same tricks employed since the days of Austen and Tolstoy, Mary swoops in to create the Scoundrel Survival Guide, using archetypes of literature’s debonair bad boys to signal red flags. But despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself unable to listen to her own good advice and falling for a supposed cad—the same one she warned her friends away from.

Without a convenient rain-swept moor to flee to, Mary is forced to admit that real life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction and that if she wants a happy ending, she’s going to have to write it herself. 

About the Author

Amanda Sellet is fond of silly jokes, large bodies of water, dessert at least once a day, and stories of all kinds. A former journalist, Amanda is the author of By the Book: A Novel of Prose and Cons. She currently lives in Kansas with her family.

Praise For…

"Delightful.... Amid the brief diary entries and opulent prose, Sellet manages to hide a clever and biting social commentary in Mary's point of view. One doesn't need intimate familiarity with the classics to enjoy By the Book, but the more you know, the more you'll laugh."   ★ "In this refreshing first novel, Sellet manages the large cast of characters well, while portraying the protagonist’s big family, her small circle of friends, and her first romance with considerable wit and insight. As Mary struggles with the practical and emotional troubles arising from her many mistakes, her rueful, self-deprecating narrative is sometimes impossible to read without laughing out loud. A smart, engaging romance." —Booklist, STARRED review   "A sweet story with a focus on family and friendships."—Kirkus   "Put in the hands of readers who love a smart and precocious cast of characters, reminiscent of Amy Heckerling’s film Clueless." —School Library Journal

Product Details
ISBN: 9780358668084
ISBN-10: 0358668085
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: November 8th, 2022
Pages: 400
Language: English