I’m a big fan of The Great Gatsby and F Scott Fitzgerald, so when I heard there was a young adult Great Gatsby retelling coming out in May, I knew I had to have it. However, putting Great Gatsby in a California boarding school makes it pretty…different, to say the least. There’s no free-flowing champagne and flapper dresses, but there’s still hint of drug use and covert affairs and awkward flirtationships that you want to come to fruition. Tanner McKay is a likable but imperfect protagonist and the Duke is a high-school version of Jay Gatsby with swagger and moves that would make the original jealous. He plays the role so well that no one is any the wiser, except the audience, tuned it to recognize the parallels to the original story. Set in a world of elite debate championships, there’s a sense of high-schoolness that cannot be escaped but that makes it al the more concerning when the ending finally comes around. Katie Nelson does great things with this book, but it’s definitely more of an adaptation of major themes in the Great Gatsby than a retelling. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable read that makes me kind of wish I had gone to a boarding school. It’s definitely got a kind of Zoey 101 California vibe, which was a fun shake up on my reading list.
Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for one reason: to win. The elite school recruited him after he argued his public school’s debate team to victory last year, and now Bannerman wants that championship trophy. Debate is Banner’s life—his ticket out of scrimping and saving and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and a new, better future. When he’s paired with the prep school playboy everyone calls the Duke, Tanner’s straightforward plans seem as if they’re going off the rails. The Duke is Bannerman royalty, beloved for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and the strings he so easily pulls. And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win. As Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of. But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple.
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