Book Review: Great
By: Sara Benincasa
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Page Count: 272
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
When I first heard about a YA novel inspired by The Great Gatsby, I immediately thought SIGN ME UP. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels so I was excited to see how Sara Benincasa would put a modern spin on the tale. While I enjoyed picking up on all of the allusions, readers who have never experienced the original will still enjoy this read. Great is heartbreakingly beautiful.
The narrator, Naomi Rye, is a fairly average teen from Chicago who is the product of a divorced household. Her father is a public school teacher and basketball coach as well as Naomi's main caregiver. As a result, Naomi is humble and doesn't fit into the social aristocracy of the Hamptons. Each summer, Naomi is shipped off to spend the summer with her mother, a self made cupcake tycoon, in East Hampton in their quaint (and insanely expensive) cottage. On some level, Naomi appreciates these moments with her mother, but they often produce distress on both sides. Naomi doesn't want to wear designer clothes and spend her days playing tennis with the next generation of the elite ruling class, but her mother feels impressing the best paves the path to success. I found the relationships between Naomi and her parents to be realistic and thought provoking.
Naomi's summer begins with a helicopter ride with "It Girl", Delilah Fairweather, which starts a friendship that will change Naomi's life forever. The two girls become fast friends, but when the newcomer, Jacinta, moves in next door to Naomi, life accelerate and takes some tragic twists. I was intrigued that the Gatsby/Daisy relationship was mirrored in a same sex couple. This decision adds a complex layer to the story that is all too relevant in our modern society. What is it about tragic romances that appeal to the soul? I'm not sure I have an answer, but I know that the Romeo and Juliet type of romances get me every time.
I found myself reading this one in largely one sitting. It's a short and compelling read that hooked me from the opening sentence and still hasn't let me loose. The themes of excess and privilege also provided an additional layer to this story that resonated with me. I think we are all guilty of overindulgence from time to time.
One Last Gripe: There were some moments that I felt like Naomi was a little too whiny.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved that it was inspired by The Great Gatsby. I would love to see more of my old favorites get a modern update.
First Sentence: My dad, who did all the heavy lifting when it came to child rearing and was far better suited to the job than my mother, gave me some good wisdom after my first summer away in East Hampton.
Favorite Character: Naomi
Least Favorite Character: Teddy
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.