By Tara Altebrando
Available now from Dutton (Penguin)
Oyster Point High School has a tradition. During senior week, there is an unofficial scavenger hunt. Parents, cops, and other authority figures try to shut it down. Naturally, the winning team gets everlasting glory. (Or, at least glory until a new team wins the Yeti the next year.)
Mary is determined to win since she didn't get into Georgetown and football player Barbone did. She wants to show someone up for once. She's got a team of also-rans with her: Winter, her best friend; Patrick, her guy best friend; and Dez, who is obviously gay and takes a lot of crap because of it. Meanwhile, she'd like to hook up with Carson who is about to break up with Jill, but another girl might have already caught his attention. And Patrick likes her that way, as she just found out at prom.
The first chapter or so of THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE is hard to parse. There are a lot of characters, motivations, and scavenger hunt items to get straight in your head. But pretty soon it's a fast ride to long-lasting memories, questionable morals, and the definition of first world problems. I like how Mary's perception of herself changes throughout the story. She thinks she's invisible at the beginning. But it turns out she's been leaving an impression all along - and that sometimes it was a bad one.
I did not like that people kept pressuring her to give Patrick a chance, but it was very realistic. I had the same thing happen to a friend in high school. But Mary manages pretty well, in my opinion. She may not be the most in tune with herself, but she's got some things figured out.
The characterization is better than your average high school comedy
movie. The jerk jock has his reasons for not liking Mary. Each of the
scavenger hunt members gets a chance to shine and express their point of
view. Even one of the scavenger hunt organizers gets some
personality. It adds depth to the standard plot.
I bring up movies because THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE reminded me more of a movie version of high school than actual high school. It works since Tara Altebrando's novel is basically the literary version of a movie. It's that one crazy night where anything can happen, even the nerds ending up on top.