I received this book for free from Edelweiss, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by HarperTeen on April 8th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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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.
How you feel about Great is going to depend heavily on how you feel about The Great Gatsby. If you dislike the original, this is unlikely to change your mind. If you haven’t read the original, I can’t really help you because it’s impossible for me to separate this book from the source material, so I’m going to go with it’s a good story, you should check it out. If you love the original (the camp I hail from) then Great is pretty damn great.
(I had to and I’m not sorry)
As a retelling, this is more of the re, less of the telling. What I mean is it follows the source material pretty much exactly. While Sara Benincasa throws in her own twists (one notable example being gender-flipping Gatsby for no other reason than why the hell not? and yesss, good impulse) and updates the setting and details, she’s basically taking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tale and coloring between the lines.
For the uninitiated, the story goes as thus: Regular girl (Naomi) goes to spend her summer with her baked goods mogel mother on the fancy end of the Hamptons and finds herself palling around with golden girl Delilah and friends, one of whom being her glamorous yet mysterious neighbor Jacinta. While I can’t say I totally liked any of the characters (two exceptions, we’ll get to them in a bit), that’s sort of the point, these people can be awesome but are also pretty messed up in terrible and/or annoying ways.
Naomi isn’t the most standout of MCs (so true to the original) though she can be snarky and sharp when the situation calls for it (slight deviation from GG, I recall all of zero interesting things about Nick). The real story is found in the lives she’s observing. Long story short, if you give a bunch of people all the money and none of the rules, shenanigans ensue.
This story is considered a classic for a reason. A tourist’s view of the lifestyles of the rich and fabulous, scratching past the glitzy outer layer to expose the hollow, nasty bits beneath? You can’t tell me that trope isn’t still interesting and relevant (hello, Gossip Girl). Even knowing the inevitable outcome, I still found myself surprisingly invested in the outcome. When the plot picked up, I found my anxiety level rising to match.
Benincasa did make a few small additions to the story. Jeff, the gender-swapped love interest for Naomi, has more of a presence than I remember Jordan having in the original. I approve of this liberty-taking and ngl, up until a certain point, I was shipping it. He has this delightfully dead-pan, sarcastic way of making fun of everyone to their faces that I adored.
My favorite addition is Skags, Naomi’s best friend from back home (I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but I do not recall Nick talking to anyone off-island). Though Skags has a depressingly small part, she makes every moment count and my biggest regret with Great is that she was limited to memories and a voice on the phone.
All in all, solid two thumbs up. Benincasa does an admirable job of making a classic relevant to a modern audience and I applaud that effort. Retelling (slightly) aside, I reiterate, Great is a thoroughly enjoyable story and well worth checking out.