I’m ambivalent about this book. On one hand, it was an easy read, the story is original, the writing is clever. On the other hand, it didn’t leave much of an impression. I saw the movie years ago, and in many places throughout the book I found myself thinking about the movie to supplement what was missing.
The book is written as a series of journal-like entries from the main characters. While this style gives different perspectives on the central event in the book – a high school presidential election – too often the entries blended into each other. And some entries were so short there wasn’t enough to them to really fill out each character. That’s where I kept retreating to the movie.
The story revolves around the presidential election at Winwood High. Mr. McAllister is a well-liked, passionate teacher who oversees the election. Tracy Flick is the ambitious overachiever who wants to be president because she truly believes she is superior to the other students and candidates but also because she wants to pad her resume. Paul Warren is the likable jock who runs against her at Mr. M’s recommendation. Paul’s campaign manager is Lisa Flanagan. Lisa had a secret, short-lived affair with Tammy Warren, Paul’s sister, who is also running for president.
There are other story lines that give some depth to the characters. Mr. M is having marital trouble, Tracy is rebounding from an affair with a teacher, Paul and Lisa are mixing business with pleasure. But the crux of the story is the election and the lengths the characters will go to to win or see that someone else doesn’t.
As with any movie adaptation there are differences in the book. In the movie Tracy is portrayed as slightly more villainous. In the book she’s precocious and insecure, a little more pitiable. Of course, the ending is also different, and I suppose the ending you prefer is directly related to how you feel about Tracy and Mr. McAllister.
I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it, but for me it was just too slight to leave much of an impression.