Title: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life
Author: Tara Altebrando
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is by no means The Best Book You’ve Ever Read in Your (Pathetic) Life, but it may just be the most original. This was a novel that was brimming with unique flavor, ideas, and creativity which I absolutely adored. While I wish that Altebrando had managed to take more command of her narration and further develop the more serious and deep aspects of this novel, I can’t deny that it was funny, realistic, and a novel that I simply could not put down till I had finished it. It was most definitely of my better reading experiences and it was a worthwhile break from the usual YA Contemporary of today.
Most high schools have graduation ceremonies, parties, and games to celebrate the end of senior year, but Oyster Point has their annual Scavenger Hunt. Mary and her friends, Winter, Patrick, and Dez, are determined to win this year and show their fellow teammates that they’re not the losers they are proclaimed to be. For Mary, this night is to be revenge on Jake Barbone, the bully whose family legacy got him into
Georgetown instead of Mary. Not only is this night about revenge though, it’s also about love, for Mary is yearning to become the girlfriend of Carson, her long-time crush. But, while Carson is most definitely breaking up with his girlfriend, he may not be doing it for her and someone close to Mary may also have his eye on her. Unknown to Mary and her friends, this night will not only test their supreme scavenge hunting skills, but also the very bonds of their friendship itself.
I suppose I’ll start out by outlining what I liked about this story. For one, the idea was most definitely original. I’ve never heard of these types of scavenger hunts before although I found myself dearly wishing that I had had one in my own high school. I loved the manner in which Altebrando managed to sweep the reader into the thrill and excitement of this night, which simply added to the overall fun of the story. Furthermore, I thought the pacing of the novel was perfect and none of the quests to find objects were too rushed or too dragged out. In a novel such as this, pacing is key and the fact that it was spot on enabled me to keep flipping the pages frantically and eagerly.
Yet, what I loved the most about this book was the character dynamics and I admired the way Altebrando portrayed her cast throughout the book. I always find that in situations where a group of people are thrown together and forced to work together efficiently, problems are bound to arise. Altebrando combines the plethora of issues these students face on their quest in an extremely realistic manner, making this journey one filled with awkwardness, confusion, and constant bickering. Not only do Mary and Winter like the same guy, but Patrick likes Mary, Dez happens to get injured, and when Carson, the guy who Mary and Winter join them, things only begin to get more heated. While I often wanted to smack them all for all their unnecessary drama and tell them to mature up and work together, I realized that this type of situation was typical of high school students, which only added to my enjoyment of this tale.
But (there’s always a but isn’t there?), there were some aspects of this novel which I felt let me down. In the midst of this whirlwind adventure, Altebrando attempts to explore the differences that each of these teens have and tries to bring forth some depth into this novel by shedding light on their difficulties at home and school. While I appreciate her effort, I unfortunately believe it failed. In fact, I may have enjoyed this novel more if it were just a fun scavenger hunt with hormonal and nostalgic high school seniors. I believe that Altebrando failed to make the serious issues she brought up come to light and shine in this story as they were rather quickly inserted into scenes and were not developed themselves. This novel would have definitely been better if she had managed to further develop those ideas realistically, but as she did not, it took away from the story.
Overall though, I really liked this book. It was fun, snarky, and simply an enjoying read. Plus, I found that I enjoyed the few lessons that did manage to emerge throughout the story and the character development was excellent as well. If you’re looking for a story that is quick, relaxing, and entertaining, look no longer! The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is the one for you! ;)