- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Berkley (October 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0425167283
- ISBN-13: 978-0425167281
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 93 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Election Paperback – October 1, 1998
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Tom Perrotta is a remarkably astute observer and writer of the adolescent experience. His Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies is a delightful collection of coming-of-age stories, which give insight into the joys and agonies of adolescence. In Perrotta's first full-length novel The Wishbones, a 31-year-old musician can't quite cope with the responsibilities of adulthood and instead lives an extended adolescence. Perrotta's much-anticipated second novel Election again successfully ventures into the adolescent psyche.
The book is set in a New Jersey high school amidst a hotbed of political activity: students are voting for their school president. Perrotta's cast of characters are exaggerated but convincing. They convey adolescence as it often is--sometimes painful and frequently awkward. Tracy is the popular girl, smart and pretty, but she isn't quite as perfect as her classmates assume. A sordid affair with a teacher lurks in the shadows. Paul is the jovial football jock, but his parent's divorce has left him hurt and vulnerable. Then there is Paul's younger and geekier sister Tammy, the tormented underdog struggling with her sexuality. Plot develops through a series of mini-chapters, narrated by the main protagonists. There are also frequent interjections from Mr. M, the all-around good teacher every kid loves--the kind of teacher Hollywood loves to enshrine in sentimental flicks. A genuine crescendo of excitement and anticipation consumes the reader, as we eagerly await who has won the election. This is a novel of teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and is probably best appreciated by grownups with enough perspective on their own adolescent experiences to be able to take the bitter with the sweet. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A far cry from Sweet Valley High, this wry, engaging story of a 1992 high-school election in a New Jersey town "a couple of exits" away from Glen Ridge is observant and sly, if less amusing than the battles over pop-musical taste in Perrotta's quirkily humorous first novel, The Wishbones. The candidates for school presidency of Winwood High are an uninspiring bunch campaigning for what almost everybody knows is an empty office. Ambitious Tracy Flick is a hot bundle of raw political ambition and a bad reputation, who campaigns with cupcakes against Paul Warren, a jock with a pretty face and high PSAT scores who is urged to run by his history teacher (and sometime narrator) Jim McAllister. Paul's nihilistic sister Tammy (who enters the race in a despairing rage because she's in love with Paul's girlfriend) is the single fresh and original character here?and she gets herself suspended before Election Day. The results are blessedly far from feel-good, and Perrotta casts a wonderfully cool eye on his ostensible protagonist, "Mr. M.," even if the hints of true political satire remain just that, tantalizing hints. Despite six alternating narrators, this is a simple, spare story?designed, perhaps, with moviegoers in mind as well as readers. (Mar.) FYI: A movie version already is in production with MTV Films/Paramount, featuring Matthew Broderick as McAllister.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Perrotta is dark humor and irony at its best, but after consideration, I came to realize that "Election" is a deceptively “light read”. It contains a message for virtually everyone.
If Tom Perrotta were Shakespeare his book very well may have been entitled "Much Ado About Nothing: Who Doth Care About Thine Stupid Election?" And a very good question it is. The only people who profit winning student body elections are the students who win them. And what difference does it really make in their lives if they do? Sure, it's a nice thing to put on paper when you're trying to get into college, maybe it will even allow you to commiserate with some interesting people. But for some reason, students and their parents and even teachers occasionally seem to put abnormal importance on it and on who wins. But rationally speaking is it really worth an outstanding teacher losing their career over throwing a high school election? Isn't it all just a popularity contest after all?
The style of "Election" is written in short musings told by the different characters in the book much like the darker tale "The Sweet Hereafter" and the choice to do so works. We get to see each of the character's perspective on what happened and maybe even more importantly we find amongst them there really is no true hero here. Paul Warren seems sweet but we later we see his insincerity in the way he signs one of the other character's yearbooks. Tracy Flick sleeps with her teacher, lies and destroys her opponent's posters. Tammy Warren's motivation is primarily revenge on those who don't understand her. And the lead character, Mr. M. who commits the main crime in the book performs a few other selfish acts as well. Normally this would not be a good recipe for a story as we must ask ourselves who we should root for here. But in this case it works brilliantly because as much as each character is a villain the author shows us there is something redeeming in them all, even some unexpected similarities leading us to an examination into ourselves, others and our own values.
The film of the same name originally used a different ending. I was fortunate enough a few years back to attend a Q and A with the screenwriter and the audience was shown the original ending of the film which stays true to the book and is excellent. There is only one thing I would change about it but that is more or less my opinion. Unfortunately as far as I know the DVD does not contain that alternate ending in its extras and it should. Also something that was prominent in the film that was not originally in the book was the premise "What is the difference between morals and ethics?" which runs as an undercurrent in the novel and is stated definitively and verbally in the film, the point being of course that there is no difference and it is the tip off to what sends Mr. M. on his spiraling downfall.
Election is a very well written masterfully paced book. It is not a story that makes you comfortable when you read it but it is not one to easily put down either.
The barebones plot isn't terribly momentous, centering on a high school student body election. The characters are sketchily drawn: Tracy is a fatherless little overachiever, her opponent Paul is a mediocre student nudged into the race by a helpful teacher whose intentions go sour, his sister is a rebellious budding lesbian, and the adults are all sleeping around -- in fact one of them sleeps with Tracy. Their purposes align, cross, overlap, and fizzle.
But there's plenty of fun: the clean writing, the dry humor, the hopping pace as we jump between the characters' points of view (this sounds as though it may cause confusion, but Perrotta separates the voices well and creates suspense), the kids who neatly manipulate adults, the adults who treasure kids while recognizing how silly and cruel they can be, and the general rat-raciness of life.
Perrotta also includes a few searing or heavy moments, such as the story of a retarded girl who is gang-raped, and a boy who spits in the face of a cheating teacher. These indicate that he was up to more than the trifling movie that was made from the book.
There are worse ways to pass an evening, and there are better. If you can find it cheap and you like little stories about Middle America, go for it.
If you don't want to read it, however, at least watch the movie. Reese Witherspoon gives a FANTASTIC performance as Tracy Flick. :)