Apr 11, 2014

Great by Sara Benincasa Review

Great by Sara Benincasa
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen; 272 pages
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.

Retellings scare me.  I know that's probably not the best way to start off a review about a retelling of a story.  But any time a movie is remade I usually cringe.  No matter what you're always gonna compare it to the original.  And to be honest it's rare that the remake is ever going to be better.  And to take a story as iconic as The Great Gatsby and flip it to a modern day version is a risk, it's a huge risk.  But boy did this pay off!  I loved this book, from start to finish.  It was just so fresh and clever. 

If I were a teen reading The Great Gatsby in high school, I would have loved to read this along with it in case there were parts that I missed or didn't understand.  The author chose to have the mysterious and captivating neighbor next door be a blogger.  Which I thought was really genius because celeb blogs are really popular these days.  Take someone like Perez Hilton for example.  He is considered to be a celebrity, and he got his start by having a Paris Hilton fansite.  And from there he started blogging about other celebrities, and his career took off.

The heart of the novel is the main character Naomi.  Naomi is hard not to like.  She's a pretty normal teenage girl, even if her mother is rich and famous.  She's very grounded and you can tell she's a genuine person.  I enjoy characters like this in contemporary books.  It's makes it for a smooth and easy read, when the main character is likable.  I think it's also how I would hope I would be if, I were to suddenly have access to money and pretty much buy anything I want.  I definitely am not rich, so I definitely cannot compare my life to hers.  But I loved how she kept a normalcy.  But on the other hand I smiled at her going to lavish parties and wearing Marc Jacobs clothing.  I love when people live their life to the fullest, and for Naomi that summer at the Hamptons she definitely did that.

But of course there is scandal, and there is a bunch of juiciness.  I ate it all up.  It was bold of the author to have the role of Gatsby be a female.  And even with knowing where the story was heading, I couldn't help but like Jacinta.  And when her story eventually unfolds I had a sympathy for her.

I think my only criticism of Great would be that a lot of the symbolism in The Great Gatsby was lost.  Things were mentioned such as the green light and the billboard, but it's done sort of in a way that it's almost a passing thought.  And unless you were looking for it, you wouldn't know it was there.  In a way I felt like they were just thrown in there, and I would have preferred that they have been left out.

Overall this book is a gem.  It was a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who love YA contemporary.


  1. Kimberly @ Turning The PagesApril 11, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    I get the fear of retellings because I have it too but I'm so glad that this one paid off for you! I can't wait to read this one :)

    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

  2. I love retellings, though I admit I do get the jitters sometimes if I'm not sure about how it might be executed. That was the case when I first heard about Great, but all the reviews I've seen have been super positive. I'm excited to read it soon. Wonderful review!


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