I had previously read two books by Tom Perrotta – Little Children and The Leftovers and enjoyed them both. I also liked the 1999 film adaptation of Election starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. So I had high hopes for this little novel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I’d hoped.
The novel takes place in a suburban New Jersey high school, just as the election for President of the Student Government Association is getting underway. Tracy Flick is an ambitious student, hell bent on winning the election. Paul Warren is the nice guy student athlete who gets talked into running against Tracy by popular teacher Mr. McAllister…. who is dealing with some personal issues of his own. The race gets a little tighter when Paul’s younger sister also decides to run… and then throw in some teen angst, an affair (or two) and some other devious behavior to mix it up a bit.
The narration is set up to be told in first person from the various characters, and invokes the feeling of watching talking heads in a documentary. The plot moves along quickly, actually much faster than I expected. But these worked together to make it difficult to connect with any of the characters. I really didn’t care who was doing what to whom. It is an entertaining a kind of light read while exposing some seedy and dark aspects of human behavior. Perrotta does this very well. I think I was mostly on board until the ending though. Ah, well…. can’t win them all I guess. But I’m not turned off by Perrotta in general – far from it.
by Tom Perrotta
Berkley Publishing Group / Penguin, 1998
Source: Purchased Used
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