Monday, May 5, 2014

Review ~ Great by Sara Benincasa

Series: standalone (?)
Genre: YA contemporary/retelling
Pages: 272
Publication date: April 8th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Goodreads Description: 
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. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review. 

I had a lot of issues with Great, but I have a feeling that a lot of other readers didn't run into the same problems as me. Even though I didn't care much for this book, I have to say that it wasn't a bad one. Some parts were pretty decent, such as the last ten percent of the book.


Issue one: I didn't really like the retelling. Maybe that has to do with the fact that I don't care much for retellings of contemporaries. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I didn't feel that Great had that many unique twists to make it a retelling that I enjoyed. I'm not exactly sure. I just didn't care much for it.

Issue two: I read The Great Gatsby for the first time about a month before reading this book. I also wrote a literary analysis essay, and I watched the latest movie rendition for the second time. So, the story was fresh in my mind as I as read Great. This was probably not a good idea. The book fell short--I felt like the essence of The Great Gatsby wasn't there. It didn't dig deep enough for me. The messages weren't as strong as they could've been. Since I didn't care much for the original story in the first place, it was a bit hard to care much for the story in the retelling. Stronger messages and more depth would've made me enjoy the book much more.


Issue three: The writing didn't feel that great. It didn't appeal to me throughout the book.

Issue four: Delilah wasn't as well developed as she could've been . . . . Maybe this was part of the reason why the book didn't dig deep enough.

Issue five: The main character annoyed me much more than I think she was meant to. Some of her comments and behavior (or passing remarks--at least three that were in parentheses didn't seem to have any point at all) just cast a bad light on her, and she never seemed to redeem herself over those things that annoyed me. They didn't seem to contribute to the story enough to make me think she was a better character.


Like I said, many of the problems I had with this book are probably not ones most readers run into. Unless you get annoyed with the main character, you may not mind her. If the original story isn't fresh in your mind (and you didn't write an analysis of what you saw what the story was really about), you may see this modern retelling in a much better light than I did. The depth and the development could possibly fall short for you as well, but it may not. You'll just have to read it for yourself to see if the book is a good one for you (though I suggest borrowing it).

My question for you:

What kind of retellings do you like to read?


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