Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

Goodreads Summary:
An all-day scavenger hunt in the name of eternal small-town glory

With only a week until graduation, there's one last thing Mary and her friends must do together: participate in the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. And Mary is determined to win.

Mary lost her spot at Georgetown to self-professed "it" bully Jake Barbone, and she's not about to lose again. But everyone is racing for the finish line with complicated motives, and the team's all-night adventure becomes all-night drama as shifting alliances, flared tempers, and crushing crushes take over. As the items and points pile up, Mary and her team must reinvent their strategy--and themselves--in order to win.

My Review:  

The concept of this book reminds me of one of my favorite movies from my teen years- "Some Kind of Wonderful": (Here's the trailer)

Theme music: This song plays in the background of "Some Kind of Wonderful" during the party scene, but it's also kind of appropriate for the book.  

Basically, both this book and the movie are about the main character's desire to recreate and redefine themselves through a single and, hopefully, pivotal event.  In the movie, the boy wants to take the most beautiful girl in school out on a date. In this book, Mary wants to win the scavenger contest. Tellingly, Mary names her scavenger hunt group, the "Also-Rans"- in part because their group is composed of high school second string types. Mary lost out to Jake for Georgetown; she also lost a student council race to be Vice-President. But I think she mostly wants to win because she is going off to college in a few months and if Mary doesn't change herself now, she'll go off to Georgetown the same person. The kind of person who stands in the sidelines, who doesn't take know, basically the kind of person who has a mountain of regrets about the things they let slip away undone versus regretting the choices the made. 

One of the good things about this book is that even though the timeline of the book is less than 24 hours, so much happens to the characters. The characters grow and change a lot- which does feel a little contrived- because do you really see this in real life? But, it's a book, it's not real life. In a way, who wants to read a book where personal growth is handled in "real time"? To follow a character over the course of a year and hear about what they ate for breakfast, complaining about their math homework, arguing with their mom about taking out the trash, etc. With little "lightbulb" moments occurring every so often- that sounds like a recipe for a 900 book page of boring. So, I think that as a reader you have to suspend disbelief a little for the sake of reading a, well, readable book.

I don't want to give away the ending, but it wasn't what I expected. In a good way, though. I thought it was realistic and consistent with the story. I also like that this book surprised me. I thought it was going to be a simple comedic type book about a scavenger hunt- and it was that. But what it also was is a group of friends in a pressure filled situation who are trapped together in a car- and how that tension leads to them to make uncomfortable disclosures about themselves and their relationships. In case you want to check out the movie, "Some Kind of Wonderful".

Overall Rating: 3 stars  
Genre Rating: 3 1/2 school lockers    
Author's Website
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The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life


  1. This book sounds fun. I've added it to one my shelves. Though "scavenger hunt" is what gets me. I haven't watched that movie. Nice review! And besides, who doesn't love seeing teens on a crazy night?

  2. Awesome review there! Here's mine if you don't mind:

    Thanks and have a nice day! =D



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