Khanh the Killjoy

Not great

Great - Sara Benincasa

To be honest, Great...wasn't. If you loved The Great Gatsby, you're going to hate this book. If you hated The Great Gatsby, you're going to hate this book. If you have no idea what The Great Gatsby is, you're probably going to hate this book, too, because it's about a bunch of spoiled brat "summering" in the East Hamptons. And absolutely nothing happens in in it.

But if you read The Great Gatsby, you might have already predicted that.

The teens in this book are fucking dumb. At least the characters in The Great Gatsby have some depth, because they're adults. The main characters in this book have brilliant conversations over shit like a fucking swimming pool.

“It looks like it’s got a current,” she said with wonder, looking at Jacinta.
“It does,” Jacinta said. “You should come over to swim. Or just to float.”
“I’ll come every day,” Delilah said, and she almost sounded as if she really meant it.

And they cry over fucking Hermès bags.

On the shelves was a series of similar-looking handbags in a rainbow of colors. Delilah seemed bowled over. She stared at the bags, her blue eyes filling with tears.
“They’re—they’re so beautiful,” she said softly, her voice catching a little. “They’re all Birkins, aren’t they?”

To make it worse, I felt like this book uses gays and lesbians as a plot device. This book is The Great Gatsby with a lesbian twist, and it is completely pointless in that regard. There was no reason to include the lesbians other than shock value. There was no relationship between them, everything that happens between the couples was presented to us as an insider joke, of which we're the outsiders, not understanding what the fuck has just happened between two shared meaning-filled glances. Furthermore, the main character has a hateful lesbian best friend who's not so much as friend as it feels like the "friend" is merely an extension of the main character, used to deliver the scathing words and bitterness and hate that the main character will not say. The best friend is a "butch" lesbian who wants to be called "Skags." Skags is judgmental, she is horny, she is cruel. Skags is an offensive caricature of a lesbian character.

The thing is that The Great Gatsby is a pretty horrible book to begin with (my humble opinion, of course), because it's about a bunch of overindulged, greedy, pampered adults. There's really no getting around the fact that the characters in The Great Gatsby are pretty unlikeable. The book itself wasn't well-received when it was written, it only became popular two decades later during the midst of WWII austerity because people wanted some frivolity in their lives. It's not a premise that translates well.

So why rewrite it? Why make it about a bunch of wealthy, spoiled as all fuck teenagers who spend their entire summer fucking and getting drunk and snorting coke. What's the point? It's like remaking the worst movie in the world, Showgirls, the film. You COULD, but why?! I'm not supposed to like the people in the book, but the book shouldn't make me want take a chainsaw to their face, either.

Except this book is worse, because you can't even get any street cred for reading it. Tell someone, "I fucking hated The Great Gatsby," and you might be met with an eye roll, or a nod of sympathy, because hey, at least it's considered a classic. Tell someone "I read Great," and you'll be met with a blank stare. So you won't even get the bragging rights by reading this book (and really, the bragging right is the only reason for which The Great Gatsby is worth reading). Can you tell I didn't care much for it? I read this hoping to at least be entertained by a modern adaptation.

I wasn't.

The Summary:

I came home from Chicago like a raw-nosed girl crawls sickly and gratefully to her bed at 7 a.m. after a night-long coke and booze bender, wiping snot off her face and bile off a pair of lips she can’t feel. And if you think I’m too young to know what that looks like, you’ve probably never been seventeen years old and spent a summer in the Estate Section in the Hamptons.

This book mirrors The Great Gatsby, using a bunch of alcohol-drinking, coke-snorting trust fund brats. Naomi (~Nick Carraway) is the new-money daughter of a Martha Stewart wannabe (she hates her mother). Doomed *sigh* to spend the summer in the East Hamptons, or the wealthiest stretch of land in the US where the ultra-rich spends their summers, or rather, "summers" as a verb. If only we were all so unlucky.

The reluctant Naomi gets the beautiful and influential Delilah (~Daisy Buchanan) pushed on her by her social-climbing mother. Delilah is the...

...Republican senator’s ridiculously beautiful (but, I’ll admit, shockingly nice) fledgling model daughter.

, her boyfriend Teddy (~Tom Buchanan), and their friend Jeff (Jordan Baker). Jordan eventually meets Jacinta (~Jay Gatsby) at one of her parties. Jacinta...

"I guess she’s famous? Like she writes this famous blog?” a fashion blogger, who is oddly enamored with Delilah. For no fucking reason, they start developing a relationship.

At times I’d catch them staring at each other with what I could only describe as longing. Something was developing between them that went beyond friendship.

Which proceed to an extent where Jacinta starts making dumb fucking romantic plans the way only silly pampered teenagers who can't see beyond their surgically-enhanced noses could.

“...and we’ll have a garden in the backyard to grow some of our food, and of course, if she wants to go to college, she can go to NYU or Columbia, and I’ll keep up with my blog and I’ll be much closer to the designers, being in New York instead of Florida.”

Honestly, the events in this book pretty much parallels The Great Gatsby, with similar characters. There's the girlfriend on the side, Misti (~Myrtle Wilson) a Jersey (or rather, Joisey) girl, and her husband Giovanni (~George Wilson). There are similar events. There are similar revelations.

You will find nothing new in this book besides the newfound urge to commit murder on the characters.

The Characters: No surprises here.

Naomi -> Nick:

“Um,” I tried again. “Isn’t—I mean—we usually go the other way. To East Hampton. When we drive there. I don’t mean you and me, because this is the first time I’ve met you. I just mean, you know, me and whoever is driving me. Which is usually someone I’ve never met before."

Meet Naomi, our narrator. She is an idiot.

She supposedly has straight A's, and "wants" to spend her summer studying for the SATs, but naturally she never fucking gets around to it. She's supposed to be Nick, and she is just the most boring fucking thing in the world. I can't really say much about her at all because she is so fucking dull. She acquires a boyfriend in the book, Jeff. Together, they are the dullest couple in the world.

Naomi is not terribly likeable, either. She hates her mom, and it's a kind of irrational teenage hate of which I can understand, but I can't sympathize. Her mother is a self-made woman. A millionaire who made her way up from the very bottom, and Naomi hates her mother the way only a rebellious, selfish daughter can. Everything her mother does is criticized, from the way she gets Botox, to her social-climbing ways, to her "cougar-like" ways, to how she doesn't eat. Get the fuck over it, your mother is funding your life and your education, you spoiled little bitch.

Jacinta -> Jay Gatsby:

“I heard she’s a distant cousin of Prince William."
“She’s definitely not American—you can tell she’s trying to hide an accent,” a boy in a peach bow tie said to his date (a boy with whom he was holding hands).
“She’s soooooo thin,” a tiny girl in pink ballet flats said to her friend. “I mean, like thinner than L.A. thin.”
“Her parents are dead,” a drunk guy announced to no one in particular. “She’s this orphan heiress.”

Jacinta is our mysterious Jay Gatsby. The wealthy girl with a secret. Gatsby, with all the artificiality and none of the charisma. Jay Gatsby is famous for being a millionaire, Jacinta is famous for being a fashion blogger on her website, She's pretentious, we can smell her artificiality a mile away. She refers to everyone as "love," and there is zero depth to her whatsoever.

“Well, that’s the whole point, love,” Jacinta said. “Fun. I want everyone to have the most fun they’ve ever had in their entire lives. I want it to just be the most perfect party, the most perfect summer. For everyone.”

Her background is unclear (GASP), and there are really obvious hints that Jacinta's not who she says she is. The hints are as subtle as pairing red plaid leggings with a blue-and-white navy striped top.

“So where did you grow up?”
“Oh, everywhere. All over. Too many places to name,” she replied, and I immediately felt the ember of suspicion in my mind. Given my question, most people would proudly rattle off a list of cities to prove how well traveled they were. Either Jacinta was just humble or she was lying.

Hints. All over the fucking place. And our dumb-as-dirt narrator never fucking trusts her instincts.

Jacinta gets involved in a lesbian relationship, and there's no point to it, because there is absolutely no chemistry between her and the ditzy Delilah.

Delilah -> Daisy:

She is a walking, talking, living, sexy Barbie doll, if Barbie enjoyed skiing in Aspen, shopping in Paris, and smoking copious amounts of marijuana.

In The Great Gatsby, Daisy is a lovely, effervescent character. In this book, her version is less effervescent than well, constantly high. She may be beautiful and nice, but Delilah is as smart as pile of poop excreted from a Kardashian. Those quotes from the beginning of my review? That's from Delilah.

She's not a mean person at all. Delilah is truly nice, despite her depiction as a "Montauk Barbie," but there is zero personality. She is so rarely in the book that it felt like there was no point to her existence and no point to her relationship with Jacinta other than shock value.

Teddy -> Tom Buchanan:

Six feet tall with light brown hair, broad shoulders, and one of those heroic square jaws, Teddy was the kind of thick-necked handsome that starts to get paunchy in college unless it is continually worked out by university-level athletic competition.

Pretty similar to Tom. He's a former child-star who's also the heir to a wealthy oil family. He's a rude ass, a philanderer who cheats on the lovely Delilah with cocktail waitress Misti.

Jeff -> Jordan: I don't have a quote for him, because he's the dullest character in the world. I can't even remember what he looks like. He's completely inoffensive. I just can't remember him at all. In 10 years, after they get married, Jeff and Naomi will be one of those 20-something couples who walk their dog every morning in matching workout gear, have missionary sex on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, watch Law & Order: SVU marathons.

Overall: Yawn. Skip it.