By Jennifer Banash
From Normal, Illinois to the Upper East Side – Casey’s made quite a move and she’s not sure how to adjust. She’s armed with Abercrombie and American Apparel, but soon realizes she’s out of her depth. She feels how much she doesn’t fit in the first time she meets Madison Macallister, Phoebe Reynaud, and Sophie St. John. But Sophie and Phoebe kind of like her and talk Madison into a makeover. However, Casey is attracting attention from Drew Van Allen, Madison’s on-again, off-again boyfriend.
Madison and Drew are currently in an off-period due to a disaster on their last date, after which they separated from the summer. Madison thinks Drew will come right back to her, and he would if they didn’t keep awkwardly messing things up with each other. Their relationship is realistically rough. I also appreciate that they are not actually dating when Casey and Drew discover their attraction. I do find it hard to cheer for a character who is trying to steal another person’s boyfriend.
Sophie and Phoebe get their own character arcs as well. Phoebe, like Casey, is facing a problem normal to teenagers. She listens nightly to her parents fighting, comforting her sister Bijoux and wondering when they’ll finally divorce. Sophie thinks her biggest problem is adjusting to her older brother moving back into the house, but her parents drop a bombshell on her. Her storyline is probably the most far-fetched in THE ELITE. Like her, I cannot understand why her parents choose to keep the secret from her for sixteen years. It’s hurtful.
One of THE ELITE’s strong points is the fact that it possesses more realism than most of the mean girl/clique books currently on the market. For one thing, Jennifer Banash mentions sale racks. Yes, the characters still have ridiculous amounts of money but they acknowledge how expensive designer clothes can be and thus don’t fear the sale rack. It’s about the quality of the clothes and how they look on you, not the current trend.
I also like Drew more than the love interest in most of the books. He’s a bit of a geek at heart, only polished by Madison and then some travel abroad. He likes museums and foreign films. C’mon, who doesn’t like a boy who likes Almódovar? And while everyone likes a villain, Madison isn’t over-the-top evil. She’s confident and can be mean, but she’s also just a girl who doesn’t know how to talk to the boy she likes.
Some of THE ELITE’s twists are easy to see coming, but it’s still a fun ride. I enjoyed Banash’s first foray in YA literature and I’ll be back for IN TOO DEEP. You can find out more at The Elite site or at Banash's MySpace.
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