Welcome to another edition of Compare and Contrast, in which I choose two books with a similar premise or theme and review them both. If you like one, you might also like the other :)
I'm going to spoiler-protect the common thread between these two books because in one of them, I think that discovering the element myself was an important part of the reading process, and of confronting my own preconceptions about the kind of story I was expecting in a YA book. If you want to read the spoiler, just highlight the rest of this line. Both of these books had LGBT themes and bisexual characters.There's another connection between the two books, which is only a spoiler for Great if you haven't read The Great Gatsby.the tragic death of a character close to the narrator.
by Tess Sharpe
To be published by Disney-Hyperion
on April 8, 2014
Source: Thanks to Disney for allowing me to read an e-galley for review purposes.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice. The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick. The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery. After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.My take: I went into Far From You expecting a standard YA mystery in the I Know What You Did Last Summer mold, but I got something far more unexpected. The mystery behind Mina's death was slightly less interesting than I hoped, mainly because (highlight for spoiler) the culprit was such a minor character that I when his/her identity was revealed, I could hardly remember who s/he was (end spoiler). As a lifelong mystery fan, I (mildly) object.
However, I can completely overlook that because there were also things about this book that were much, much more interesting than I expected. Sophie, for one. I was gripped by the story of her accident, her ensuing painkiller addiction and her rocky recovery.
I was also so touched by the story of Mina and Sophie and their close relationship. I'm not always a fan of a narrative with a lot of time jumping, but in this case it was necessary so that the reader could get a sense of Mina as a person and of her history with Sophie before her untimely death. By the end of the book, both she and Sophie seemed completely vivid and real to me and Mina's death felt all the more heartbreaking. If you're looking for a book that's not the typical contemporary YA, something that's both unique and moving, give this one a try.
by Sara Benincasa
To be published by Harper Teen
on April 8, 2014
Source: Thanks to Harper for allowing me to read an e-galley of this book for review purposes.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Everyone loves a good scandal.My take: It takes moxie to tackle a retelling of a book that just about defines "Great American novel." Great definitely has its strengths, like the clever gender-switching of many of The Great Gatsby's original characters, but in the end, teen angst in the Hamptons can never compete with the exquisitely-drawn blend of hope and despair that underlies the original story.
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.
Part of my pleasure at reading a retelling is checking out the choices the author made. At first, I was worried. Nick Carraway has become ... Naomi Rye? As in caraway seeds and rye bread? After that, I was expecting Jordan Bakery and Tom and Daisy Baguette to stroll onto the page. (No, that did not happen. Fortunately.) I also wasn't crazy about the choice to turn war-weary Nick into a bland goth girl from the Midwest and Jay Gatsby into a quirky fashion blogger with a trust fund.
That said, there were definitely some things about Great that I really liked -- namely, turning Daisy and Gatsby's ill-fated love story into a fragile, furtive romantic relationship between two teenage girls. I thought that the relationship between Naomi and Delilah hit just the right note of doomed longing and, to me, felt true to the original story.
I'm not sure if people unfamiliar with The Great Gatsby will enjoy this as much as those who have, but if you haven't read the original, what are you waiting for? And if you have, give this a try and see what you think.