Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Great by Sara Benincasa

 Rachel has a look at a new take on one of the greats....

Great by Sara Benincasa

Naomi Rye hates spending summers with her famous, social-climbing mother in the Hamptons every year. Even though the lovely and popular Delilah Fairweather has always tried to invite her to the best parties and get-togethers, Naomi always finds herself on the outskirts of the other teenagers, who are rich, beautiful, and entitled. Instead of joining in, Naomi usually spends these summers texting with her best friend Skags from her hometown of Chicago and wishing she were back home with her much more down-to-earth father.

This summer though, things go a little off-script. For the first time, well, ever, Naomi is finding herself--gasp--enjoying herself. She ditches the ironic tee-shirts and combat boots for the designer duds that her mother has been dying for her to be seen in. She starts flirting with a cute guy named Jeff who moves in Delilah’s circles, but seems just a little different than the rest. And she finds herself the bosom buddy of the enigmatic and highly-sought-after Jacinta Trimalchio, a teen fashionista whose blog is the place to see and be seen.

Jacinta is gorgeous and kind and throws the most extravagant parties, but there’s something a little strange about her. She seems unnaturally interested in Naomi’s friendship with Delilah for one. When she convinces Naomi to introduce them, they develop a deep and immediate friendship that makes Naomi wonder a little bit more about their past. As Jacinta and Delilah grow closer, Delilah’s philandering boyfriend grows jealous and nasty, while rumors start to swirl around Jacinta’s past.

If this storyline sounds familiar to some of you, that’s because it is. Great by Sara Benincasa is a modern retelling of F. Scott’s classic The Great Gatsby, and boy does she give it a contemporary twist. For me, The Great Gatsby seemed, well, really classy, I guess because it’s old-timey and everyone in the olden days seems classy. But Benincasa’s version makes the stark contrast between the frivolity of the rich with the destruction they leave in their careless wake seem so real. And while the plot is inherently tragic, she does a great job of preserving the sense of romance and wonder through Naomi and her entry into this new way of life. As F. Scott put it, this book will leave you “simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”​

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