Disclaimer: I am not a literary critic. I'm not concerned about themes, allegory, juxtaposition, or Victorian-era satire. I want a good story. If I offend any Austen fans, I admit, I am NOT in your league and you can put me in the "ignorant, uneducated peasant" category.
Now then. This book was hard to get into. I know it was necessary to explain all the little connections between relations (cousins, in-laws, half siblings, etc. ad nauseum) in order to understand the dynamics between the characters, and in this respect the book was still better than a Russian novel with multiple dimunitive names for multiple characters, but it certainly forced me to slooooooow down and I hate that. Having passed that, I settled myself down for a depressing ending. I peaked at the introduction by Peter Conrad, and seeing as how I couldn't get through that, I assumed that the characters Elinor and Marianne would go through all kinds of trials only to be ultimately disappointed in love at the conclusion. Nope. Happy ending.
And yet I wasn't satisfied at the happy ending. I think, being a 20th century woman, slowly warming up to the 21st, has given me an attitude that if a man wrongs a woman, that woman doesn't have to hope for reconciliation with that man, she can go find herself a better one. That's not to say that reconciliation is not desirable, just that a woman doesn't have to pine away for a scoundrel. I know, I know, the setting is that of 18th century England, a world away from 21st century America. Like I said, I'm not a literary critic.
I liked the amount of dialogue the book had. It made it easier for me to see the characters as they spoke to each other rather than the narrative voice describing them. No wonder the Austen books are such popular fodder for PBS miniseries and movies. I also enjoyed seeing some of the different ways Austen spelled certain words and how she used the word "an" before every noun beginning with "h". I know that's an odd thing to notice but I am fascinated with words and language that way.
I have no problem with teens reading this, although I doubt many would want to. The romantic love Austen described is so tame compared to Meyer's Twilight. Just make sure if your teen reads Sense and Sensibility that a dictionary is handy. I doubt most high schools these days develop students' vocabulary to the extent necessary to read Austen with ease, unless of course the AP English teachers are Austen fans, which mine certainly wasn't.
The book did not necessarily inspire reading more of Austen's works for me, and in fact, I simply read it because I've heard other people swoon over Austen's stuff. Perhaps her tomes are an acquired taste.