Great by Sara Benincasa
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
I first learned about Ms. Benincasa in 2008, when her Sarah Palin videos were making the rounds online. I can’t recall what happened to bring her to my attention a couple of years later, but I started listening to her “Sex and Other Human Activities” podcast (R.I.P.). Thankfully that led me to “Radio Dispatch” and my now-favorite daily news/cat stories/activism show “Citizen Radio”. In 2012, her first book, Agorafabulous!, was the first book I purchased for my first e-reader. So what I’m saying is, I enjoy her work. We don’t always agree politically (I think she’s a bit more ‘just chill, it’s a joke’ than I am about things), but her tweets make me laugh, and her memoir was a really great, humorous look into her experience with depression.
She hinted that she was working on a Young Adult version of The Great Gatsby over a year ago; a bit after that she said she was setting it in modern times, with younger characters and a gender switch for a couple of the main characters. I had to look this up online, but Nick has become Naomi and Jay is now Jacinta. In case it isn’t obvious, I should probably admit here that while I’m sure I’ve read The Great Gatsby, I … don’t remember it. Really at all. At this point I think every mental image I can conjure up about that book is more likely to be from a preview of Baz Luhrman’s movie. I know. So keep that in mind when I say that I LOVED THIS BOOK.
Seriously. I really enjoyed it, to the point where I put off a whole bunch of chores to make sure I finished it today. There were bits that I could tell were direct references to the original work (the green light is a computer charger port light, the billboard is now one advertising plastic surgery), but it still felt original, if that makes sense. The book is tightly written, easy to read, fun, sweet, and clever. The setting works really well, and while some references may become outdated (Facebook plays a bit of a role), I don’t know how one could write a book about teenagers set in modern times and just pretend that social media doesn’t exist. She also handles the fact that these young adults do have parents without necessarily making it all about those relationships. It’d be odd if 17-year-olds just existed in the Hamptons with no reference to the adults raising them. There’s clearly some ‘yeah, right’ feel about some of the actions of these kids, but it’s much more believable than, say, Gossip Girl.
I’m glad I bought the electronic version, because I’m pretty sure it’ll become my go-to relaxation read.