When I was in the 6th grade, I read my first Jane Austen book. Borrowing from the 5th grade classroom's books (the 6th grade library shelf didn't have a great selection as far as I was concerned), I cracked open Sense and Sensibility with a fair amount of trepidation and nervous excitement. It was the hardest book I'd ever read, but I had discovered this thing that most literary lovers are familiar with; an Austen craving. I'd heard lots about this author, and finally decided I needed to familiarize myself with her material first hand. It took me several months, but by the time I put down the book, I was a different girl. I was an Austen fan.
For the first time since that day, I reread this amazing novel. It has to be my favorite Austen book (and I love Pride and Prejudice). The characters, the plot, the situations... humor, heart, and heartbreak all wrapped into one. The challenges are real, the characters flawed, and the heroes unexpected. I think it is perhaps one of her most romantic in that she depicts so many types of love, and the progression of real love in various ways. Love never happens the same way twice. But it usually isn't dreamlike... and Austen knew that. This love was so achingly real that it made you want to stand up and cheer when the beloved Marianne and Elinor finally saw it themselves. The themes of sibling and parental love are also explored in just as talented a manner.
(And, the BBC min-series is great!)