From OregonLive/ The Oregonian September 4, 2021:
The start of the new school year makes it a fitting time to pick up Portlander Margot Wood’s debut young adult novel, Fresh, a queer retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma that spans its protagonist’s freshman year of college.
Quick recap for those who haven’t encountered Emma in a while: It centers on Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy young woman who amuses herself by taking up the betterment of a less privileged lass she has befriended, including diverting her from a relationship with a young man whom Emma deems unsuitable based on her own prejudices. Her father is too wrapped up in himself to rein in her meddling, so a family friend, Mr. Knightley, steps in to suggest that Emma might be better occupied tending to her own life. She knows better, of course.
Wood’s sense that such a premise would translate well to a college campus is right on the nose. In fact, Fresh has its roots in a cautionary letter that Wood wrote to her younger sister about all the mistakes Wood made during her first year of college. Upon re-reading the letter years later, Wood said in a recent appearance, she found it “really hilarious” and began writing scenes based on each mistake. The character of Elliot McHugh appeared to her fully formed: a sex-positive, bisexual 18-year-old who arrives at Boston’s Emerson College (Wood’s real-life alma mater) ready to party. Like Emma, Elliot has no interest in any kind of commitment and sets off on a path of hedonism that does anything but make her happier.