Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on 6 August 2011
This is a deceptively simple book, and an easy read as well - I gobbled it up in one sitting. Tracy Flick appears a shoe-in for School President - until popular teacher, Mr M, persuades unambitious jock, Paul, to run. Essentially what is going on on the surface is fun but irrelevant - the novel operates as a parable for modern life - you are chasing the wrong thing, you are going after it for the wrong reasons, and even if you manage to get what you think you want, at best you will be only briefly happy. The titular election leaves all the characters worse off (except Paul's gf Lisa) - again echoing modern life, in that much is sad and downbeat.
Perrotta does a very good job of brevity, giving you short, punchy & easily readable, and letting absence define his characters without beating you over the head with it; Tracy, for example, left me sad and wanting to give her a big hug at the end, as she is clearly trying to fill the father filled void in her life, and has become an adult without even recognising the childhood / adolescence she missed out on.
So why only 3 stars? Well, with such a short book, there's a lot of tell and not show to quickly flesh out the characters - Mr M is a cool teacher, who everyone likes. Why? What subject does he even teach? There's a quick classroom cameo of him prompting kids to lean the right way, but it's very unsatisfactory - aren't there some kids who don't like him and his "I'm your good buddy" schtick? Similarly, it's really difficult to understand why Tracy is a real prospect to win the election once other candidates emerge - she has no friends or support base. I've seen other reviews refer to her as the popular girl, which I assume is a reference to the movie, as the yearbook scenes in the book clearly show she hasn't been particularly noticed by her peer group.
Similarly some of the plotting is sloppy - how the missing ballot papers are found is utterly unbelievable, whilst Mr M's late book relationship with his wife and alienation from the school (trying not to give away spoilers here hence the non-specific terms!) also don't ring true.
Overall though, I'm impressed with the tight writing style and I suspect I'll find myself thinking of some of the characters unexpectedly in the days and months ahead.