Published by HarperCollins on 2014-04-08
Genres: Friendship, Girls & Women, Social Issues, Young Adult
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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.
~ Great is a modern re-imagining of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the YA world and featuring Jacinta and Delilah as lesbian lovers. Which might not be as shocking or East Side/West Side as it once was, but given that Delilah’s father is a Republican senator, there’s definitely some added pressure to stay in the closet.
~ Benincasa dedicated this book to an English teacher of hers, which I found endearing. Thank you, Mrs. Brawley and Mrs. Resinski- this post is for you!
~ Naomi is from Chicago, spending the summer with her mother in the Hamptons. Her father is a high school basketball coach and her mom is known as the Queen of Cupcakes. I could really use a cupcake right now.
~ Because her mother is a huge social climber, she foists Naomi on her Senator and Mrs. Fairweather’s daughter Delilah whenever possible. Despite having zip in common, Delilah is nice and sweet to Naomi, and the two have known each other since childhood.
~ I like that Naomi is only a rich kid when she’s with her mom, and is just completely normal and middle class most of the rest of the time. Her character, however, is very contrary at times, shifting with the moods of her friends. But I think that’s a completely teenager thing to do. It’s okay to not know who you are at 16 and 17. Hell, I’m still learning things about myself 20 years later.
~ Delilah is gorgeous, model like (but more swimsuit than run way since she has a huge rack) and I love that the author describes her as smelling like the delicious food that she probably never eats herself. She also has a breathy voice, so I immediately hear Marilyn Monroe’s voice in my ear.
~ The freaky billboard is featured in this version too- only as Dr. Zazzle, plastic surgeon.
~ lol, butter face, a new term I picked up. As in everything is pretty but her face. Kind of mean, actually. But funny.
~ So Jacinta and Delilah aren’t the only lesbians in the novel, because Noami’s friend Skags (short for Tiffani Skagsgaard) is a very boyish lesbian. Which Naomi mentions a lot. Like, a lot. However, some of my favorite parts of the books were tales of Skags- like her term fauxbians to label girls who only make out with only girls to get boys attention. Oh, Skags, you are wise beyond your years!
~ Teddy is a psychopath, I think. He tells Naomi that she reminds him of his sister. Who is dead. Apropos of nothing. Obviously he’s destined to be a CEO.
~ Jacinta runs a fashion blog called The Wanted, which is the first time, but not the last time, that this book feels more like a mashup of The Great Gatsby and Gossip Girl. Which actually works for me. I think there can be an argument made for the way that the 1920’s elite and the current rich Hamptons/Upper East Side teens have way too much money, are way too indulgent and self-centered and decadent. Also, remember in the Gossip Girl tv show, season 1, where Blair hooked up with Chuck after dancing at his Speakeasy? Because this book reminded me of that, so much so that I just had to watch the episode on Netflix (the Victor/Victrola epi, in case you were wondering and I know you were).
~ Naomi gets to know Jacinta because J is renting a home next door, one that has a truly awesome swimming pool.
~ Jacinta often calls people by the endearment “love”, which honestly grated on my nerves after awhile. Darling, you’re 18 not 80.
~ One of my favorite parts in this book was the banter between Jeff and Naomi, even though I knew it wasn’t going to lead to an HEA.
~ Naomi makes the observation that Delilah and Jacinta seem to get high off one another, which is spot on. It’s hard to survive a fire that burns so bright and out of control.
~ Some of the issues that Naomi has with Jeff (and Nick had with Jordan) were that she and Skags can observe and comment on the lives of others like they’re characters in a popular tv sho, but it’s weird to her that Jeff can detach from Teddy, his close friend, in the whole Teddy-Delilah-Misti saga. Although don’t we often dislike most the flaws in others that we hate in ourselves? Which is why I HATE Anna Kendrick, because she’s super funny and pretty, and those are two characteristics in myself that I so loathe. Sigh. 😉
~ I really enjoyed hearing about Jacinta’s background, which was very different from Jay Gatsby’s.
~ Teddy might be an ass, and an abusive one at that, but he’s got a point- Jacinta is a bit of a stalker. The whole purse closet thing was kind of creepy.
~ The ending is a bit different than in The Great Gatsby, but I have to say I liked it even though both are tragic. I think if it had ended the same way as The Great Gatsby it might have packed more of an emotional and social punch, but it would’ve been almost too heavy in light of so many recent hate crimes. I hope this isn’t spoilerish, I’m just assuming everyone has read The Great Gatsby or at least seen the movie (which I still haven’t watched, but I will someday).
Naomi Rye- our narrator and modern Nick Carraway.
Jacinta- our modern day Gatsby.
Delilah- the object of Jacinta’s affection and our modern day Daisy.
Anne Rey- Naomi’s mom and a cross between Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart.
Skag- Naomi’s best friend from back home.
Teddy Barrington- Delilah’s boyfriend, ex-child actor.
Jeff Byron- golf playing friend of Teddy’s and the Jordan to Naomi’s Nick.
Giovanni- bartender acquaintance.
Misti- Giovanni’s girlfriend, waitress, and Teddy’s little something something on the side.
Olivia- Hampton girl, runs a blog and considers Jacinta as an unwelcome rival.
It has to be Teddy’s reveal at the restaurant and everything from then on out. Teddy wasn’t as loathsome as Tom was in The Great Gatsby, but I think that’s only because he’s still so young and there’s still plenty of time for him to grow eviler.
Stop the Clock:
I really had to wait to rate this one. It’s not a perfect update to The Great Gatsby, but it was a page turner in the same way that the Gossip Girl books were for me several years ago (I’d like to point out that this was before I began blogging and before the tv series aired and I had just started to read YA again). I’m still not sure how I feel, because while I liked the original book I don’t find it to be the end all/be all of classics. My heart still breaks for Jacinta, but not as much as it did for Gatsby. Worth the read? Yes, if for the mere fact that I would love to discuss this book with you!
Sara Benincasa— Website |Sara Benincasa
Great gets a Midnight Book rating of: