Jennifer's Reviews > Election

Election by Tom Perrotta
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Jan 31, 10

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Read in December, 2009

Jim McAllister is a popular teacher at Winwood High School. He takes his job seriously and strives to "do right" by his students. Tracy Flick is an ambitious girl who seemingly does everything she should to get ahead: edit the yearbook, star in plays, serve as class president, and sleep with her English teacher and get him fired. (See how I snuck that one in there?) The very essence of Tracy annoys Mr. McAllister—plus her little affair got his friend and colleague fired. In an effort to stop the force of nature that is Tracy Flick, Mr. McAllister persuades a popular, good-natured (but somewhat dim) jock named Paul Warren to run against Tracy in the upcoming school election—thereby setting in motion a series of events that will lead to Mr. McAllister's eventual downfall. Against the backdrop of a high school election, Perrotta creates a comedic drama involving sibling rivalry, smear campaigns, sex scandals, adultery, lies and (possible) redemption.

This was the classic case of seeing the movie before the book and having it completely influence your reading experience. I saw the movie Election—starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick—back when it came out in 1999. It was next to impossible for me to put the movie aside when reading the book. Also, I apparently blanked out a large part of the movie as I remembered nothing about one of the major subplots involving Paul Warren's sister Tammy getting involved in the election. The narration jumps around between Mr. McAllister (Mr. M in the book), Paul, Tracy, Tammy and Lisa (the girlfriend of both Paul and Tammy at differing times). It was a fast read, but I didn't find it as satisfying as other Perrotta books. It felt a bit too slight and insubstantial to me. What it really made me want to do is rewatch the movie. This may be one of the rare cases when the movie is better than the book. Still, it isn't a bad read, but I think there are better Perrotta books out there if this is your introduction to the author.

Excerpt from Mr. M on Tracy Flick: It's clear to me now that I was wrong to get so involved in Paul's candidacy. I don't think I admitted to myself how badly I wanted to see Tracy lose. That girl was bad news, 110 pounds of the rawest, nakedest ambition I'd ever come in contact with. She smoldered with it, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't find her fascinating and a little bit dangerous, especially after what I'd heard about her from Jack Dexter. She was a steamroller, and I guess I wanted to slow her down before she flattened the whole school.

Rating: 3 stars
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