~posted by Ruth
Great by Sara Benincasa
We love retellings, especially when there is a twist in the new version that highlights the themes in a different voice. And that’s the case here, in the YA contemporary version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The original is a big favorite of mine; my intrepid Book Club decided to read a “classic” for a change last year and chose The Great Gatsby. Though we had all read it at least once (several English teachers. . .), we found ourselves marveling at the language, deep themes, and compelling voices.
Fresh from that rereading, I was delighted to see Sara Bencasa had taken on the challenge of updating this classic–especially with the gender-switching roles she crafts while keeping so many of the original themes and personalities. Instead if the Jazz age, the time is “now” in the rich Hamptons of New York, complete with jet-setting and mega-rich socialites, decadent over-the-top parties, and faux friends who change sides.
At the heart of the story is the narrator, teen-ager Naomi, who befriends Jacinta, the Gatsby character. While certainly not the literary level of the original, Great gets high marks from me for reinterpreting the major plot line of the book into today’s teen world. I’d use this as a pre-read to The Great Gatsby, noting similarities and differences. The gender-bending elements are ripe for discussion, as well as the variation in the endings.
What do you and the teen readers in your life think of this YA novel? We’d love to hear!