Sunday, 16 April 2017

Election by Tom Perrotta Review

High school senior Tracy Flick wants to be School President but faces opposition from the school’s most popular jock, Paul Warren, and bitter middle-aged teacher, Mr M, in the lead up to the election. Who will win – Tracy or Paul? 

Tom Perrotta’s novel is… fine. It’s a well-written, fast-paced story that manages to effortlessly draw you in despite the seemingly ordinary narrative - that in itself shows the talent Perrotta has. And yet… it’s a very shallow book. The story is too light. What’s it about besides a silly school election? The entwining of sex and politics (the book was written during the Clinton administration)? A look at sex in contemporary (or at least ‘90s) America? A commentary on male teachers and female students, a subtle portrait of a middle-aged man sexually frustrated over the unobtainable, attractive young girl? A vague satire on the ’92 election? I have no idea – it’s that unimpressive! 

I understood some of the characters’ motivations but they felt trivial and some storylines, like Tammy’s, meandered hopelessly and went nowhere. She figured out she liked girls, transferred to Catholic school, and… that’s it?! 

Election is a quick, easy read and Perrotta’s high quality writing has convinced me to try more books by him but it’s an eminently forgettable and insubstantial novel. It’s been many years since I saw it but I’d say the Reese Witherspoon/Matthew Broderick movie is much better than its source material.

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