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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
For most of the book, my reaction to GREAT could be defined with three words all put together in one sentence. What… is this?
I have to say first off that one of the major major flaws to this book is how bad of a retelling it is. Overall, it’s not a bad book when you look at it–but so many of the lessons and ides behind The Great Gatsby and the genius of it all and the characters (oh, the characters), how flawed and different and crazy they all are–none of that came through for me.
I definitely recognized the major elements to The Great Gatsby that were translated into GREAT, such as the characters or scenes throughout the book but a TON changed in GREAT, and they were good and bad things.
So, the good things. When I was able to detach the image of The Great Gatsby that I had in my head, there were a few great things about this book.
The supporting characters. Skags (Naomi’s best friend) was definitely among my favorites. I felt like Benincasa really nailed exactly how she wanted Skags portrayed, and I loved the banter and all the different themes she introduced to the story. During memories or moments of Skags was really the only time I could force myself to like Naomi. Many of the other supporting characters also stuck to my mind as I got through the story. I don’t know what it was about them, but I enjoyed memories of them and the support they brought for the main story itself.
Naomi. I know this might really confuse you who are reading this because I made it clear in the paragraph above that Naomi really was not my favorite character, but I guess I liked the idea of her.
I’m sorry, but Nick seriously is the biggest third wheel in novel history, but he’s more than that also. The idea of him is that he’s looking in from the outside, I guess, is the best way to put it. It’s like a novel narrated by a bystander. He’s in the situation but not there all at the same time, and I think that is what I loved most about Nick as the main character of The Great Gatsby. He sees all these things but they don’t really belong to him, to his life. Of all the things Benincasa got wrong with The Great Gatsby, missing all the ideals, all the lessons, all of the academic and symbolic ideas behind this book, I think that Benincasa really got Naomi right in that sense.
Sure, Naomi’s idiotic. She’s boring. Annoying. There’s nothing that particularly sticks out about her. I feel like Benincasa could’ve took her farther, but didn’t. And then there’s that thing. The most annoying thing about the way I feel about Naomi is that their are parts to her I enjoy. Not really her as a person, but her narration. Naomi is a soulless, one-dimensional character, but perhaps that provided less distraction from the story itself–which I did appreciate.
That my summer had been overrun by fakes and liars was no surprise. That's how fancy people stay fancy--not usually through outright lies but through selective omission, partial revelation, and what they might, on the SATs maybe, call "delicate subterfuge." The Hamptons is full of fancy people who spend their days pretending and their nights dreaming that their pretense is real. But the biggest, fakest liar of them all, Jacinta Trimalchio, was also the best person among them.
I couldn’t stand the rest of the major characters. They were either dull, boring, annoying, stupid or just way too obscure for me. There are things that are apparent that Benincasa tries to keep hidden. Which leads me to the ending of this all.
I loved and hated it. In order to discuss the ending of this, I need to talk about one of the major themes–LGBT characters.
I’m going to stay out of this controversy for the sake of arguing, but here’s the thing–I’m okay with LGBT characters in books. I’ll be honest, I’m not one to seek out books with LGBT characters, but I’m fine when I do occasionally find them in books. The reason why I didn’t like it here is because it’s just so OVERBEARING. It’s like Glee if Glee was all about the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender characters in Glee, and if you haven’t seen Glee–there are quite a few of them. I love Glee, and part of the reason why I don’t feel like it was overbearing was because of how they paced the LGBT themes/storylines/ideas.
And while I liked the ending, I hated the way that it completely deviated from The Great Gatsby.
Overall, this book was okay. Just okay. It wasn’t especially bad or especially good. If anything, it bordered on not-very-favorable. 3 stars, because I did think parts of it were good, quirky and all in all–entertaining. In a retelling, literary and writing sense, no. Just no. This is not your book. I just try to think of GREAT in a non-literary, non-writing, non-Great-Gatsby sense. I loved The Great Gatsby so much, and the symbolism behind it meant a lot to me. If you’re willing to look past all these things or you didn’t like The Great Gatsby, then be my guest.
And oh yeah–
pg count for the hardback: 263