Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

Great 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.

My Review:

It was really interesting to read the parallels between this story and The Great Gatsby.  Many of the characters were not likeable, but that didn't detract from the story itself since they seemed to be written that way on purpose.


One thing that was interesting in this story was the gender-flipping of the Gatsby/Daisy relationship from the original.  This was changed to be a lesbian relationship between Jacinta and Delilah.  I liked these two both together, and as individual characters, though I didn't like a choice that Delilah made near the end.  At the beginning, when Naomi felt like a bit of an outsider with all the others in the Hamptons, Delilah tried to make sure that she felt welcome.  Jacinta threw some extravagant parties.  She even got a Ferris wheel in her backyard.  I liked seeing Naomi set up the lunch at her house so that Jacinta could talk to Delilah.  The idea of Delilah being a model, and Jacinta being a famous fashion blogger who blogs about her outfits was pretty cool.

Most of the guys that were in the story were jerks.  Just like the original Tom Buchanan, Teddy Barrington was awful.  He was egotistical and misogynistic.  He was cheating on Delilah with Misti, and he didn't care that pretty much everyone in town knew about it except for Delilah.  I liked Teddy's friend Jeff at first.  He was so sweet to Naomi, and he seemed like a good love interest for her.  And then, things went downhill when they got in a fight at one of Jacinta's parties.  I don't remember if the original Nick and Jordan fought, so I had thought that maybe Naomi and Jeff would end up together.  But instead, he turned out to be a total jerk.  

The addition of parents into the story was something that definitely differed from the original.  I didn't really like Naomi's mother since she seemed too shallow.  She was obsessed with being friends with well-known families like the Fairweathers.  I was glad to see some development in the mother-daughter relationship, though, later in the story.  Naomi's dad seemed like a good guy, though he wasn't in the story much since Naomi was spending the summer with her mom.

If you like The Great Gatsby and YA contemporary retellings, read this book.


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