Genre: Contemporary, Retellings, YA
Publication date: April 8th 2014
In Sara Benincasa's contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.
Everyone loves a good scandal.
Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta's carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.
Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa's darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.
-A copy was provided by HarperTeen for review-
What a weird book this was. I have to be honest and preface everything I am about to say by letting you know that I have never read The Great Gatsby. I know nothing of what it is about, all I know is that Leonardo DiCaprio recently starred in a movie version about it that I have not seen. Naturally I won’t be able to compare GREAT to the source material at all but I can talk about the book for what it is. So what was it? Well, it was a contemporary tale about richie rich Hamptons kids who use “summer” as a verb and it had little vines of mystery snaking into the story here and there. I had fun reading it, but I am not too certain that I necessarily liked much of what I read.
Naomi has spent her summers with her mother in the Hamptons ever since her parents got divorced. Living in Chicago with her father she leads a regular life; her dad is a high school basketball coach and they don’t lead the most lavish of lifestyles. Everything changes when she goes away for the summer, she flies in helicopters, eats at the fanciest of restaurants and lives in her mother’s giant house. In the beginning of the book Naomi is pretty much anti-anything-to-do-with-her-mother and I liked that about her. She went to this fancy place and didn’t care what anyone thought, she stayed true to herself and was above all the bullshit. But somewhere in the novel that changed, she did a complete 180. She started wearing Marc Jacobs, getting into vehicles with drunk people and dating a guy that was an ass. I think that was one of my main issues with this novel. Naomi’s character began to contradict who she was presented to be so often, it was a constant back and forth with this girl and I felt like I never got a feel for who she was. One could argue that this book was about her delving into that life and realizing that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but she was thinking one thing and doing another so it just felt like lacklustre character building to me.
While on the topic of character building I want to talk about Naomi’s best friend from back home, Skags (yeah, why would anyone choose to be called that, right?) She wasn’t that prevalent in the story, Naomi would just call here now and then and was constantly thinking about how she would react to things that were going on. What bothered me about her addition to the story was the fact that I felt like all that defined her was that she was a lesbian. I’m not sure how I felt about the novels handling of homosexuality at all, it seemed like it was something people did for fun? I don’t even really want to go into this because I don’t represent the group that was being misrepresented here at all but every time Naomi thought something about someone being gay or other people said stuff about it, it really rubbed me the wrong way. Now, this isn’t usually something that bugs me and maybe it was just because so much of the book had already bugged me but looking back on my reading experience with GREAT this was a real sore spot for me.
Not much happens in the novel until the last 30 pages really. What kept me going was my fascination with reading stories/watching movies & TV shows about the rich and famous. I love seeing the drama unfold and I knew there was something really weird going on with Jacinta from the very beginning. The big grand finale left me underwhelmed as we are left still not really knowing who to trust. I don’t think this is one you should be sad about missing this spring, if you really want to read it go for it, but I’m sure there are much better books on your TBR.
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