Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

3:42 PM

Great by Sara Benincasa | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

“It's like there's this knowledge hanging in the air that one person has more power than the other, and we're supposed to pretend everything is nice and normal and equal, but in reality, luck or chance has showered benefits on one person that the other person couldn't dream of.” 

 The thing about retellings of classic literature is that, despite its source material aging really well and somehow remaining relevant even as the times change, it's always going to be a bumpy path to adapt it to modern-times. The Great Gatsby has something timeless to it that makes it easier to change the story--to modernize it, to bring it to today's world whilst keeping its general heartbeat going. Great proves that it's possible to take a story we know and love, and give it new life.

Sara Benincasa has this lightness to her prose that is fluffy and honest; gritty and cheesy. It's fun. It is reminiscent of Gatsby, but still its own story. What I liked most about it was seeing how she adapts the tale as something new. These characters are new; they are not the exact mirror of their original counterparts. Not only are the names different, their genders and the like are changed too. There are those signs of life from the original source but there's an inclusion to this one that makes it that much more of its own story.

Naomi, for example, is undeniably like Nick. They are flawed in different, manageable ways that make them out to be something of a voice of reason. You like them, even in the moments where you can't help but to question their actions. They are the obtainable ones. Naomi is easy to root for in all the ways that count--and seeing where her story starts, to where it ends, is very satisfying.

Then we have the Gatsby-esque leading lady, Jacinta. I love her just as I love Jay. You love and care for this little cupcake and all you want is for her to get her happily ever after, though you know what is coming long before it does. I thought the way Jacinta was adapted was probably the best of the entire book and she is sympathetic. You pity her. You want what's best for her. You love her despite her worse-off moments. Everything ties in perfectly. I loved seeing the beginning of her relationship with Delilah and the friendship she formed with Naomi.

Much like with Gatsby, you are blindsided by her endgame.

The characters--needless to say--are incredibly fleshed out and still fun. There were times when I wanted more from it but it was a deeply satisfying read in its strides. Great is a summer novel through and through. Once picking it up, you devour it like the juiciest treat in literature. It has its weak moments and some questionable phrases (which, I won't get into) that made me pause from time to time.

Ultimately, it's still a great read--perfect for fans of The Great Gatsby, as it offers nothing but respect for its source material. Delightful, fast paced and full of solid character, Benincasa brings Gatsby to the 2010s; sprinkling in what we know and love as a classic with modern flare.

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