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Election by Tom Perotta

Election (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Tom Perotta

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6672114,382 (3.73)25
Authors:Tom Perotta
Info:Putnam Adult (1998), Hardcover, 200 pages
Collections:Your library

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Election by Tom Perrotta (1998)


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Superficially, "Election" could be viewed as just another thinly veiled tribute to Gen-X ephemera of broken families and suburban malaise. But such an appraisal would do this slim novella an injustice. Incorporating themes from the post-92, aka Clinton era, landscape, Election is an exacting satire that takes bold jabs at the American dream and those inherently damnable American dreamers.

Other reviews are of the opinion that the movie version of the novella is more fleshed out, especially in terms of character motivation, but I must disagree. Behind Perrotta's sharp diction, biting humor and terse observations emerges a certain poetry of nuance, where our character's discarded desires, naked ambitions, and unverbalized desperation lie. This is especially important in regards to our anti-heroine Tracy, who is both a product and victim of ambition, an ambition that can catapult you to nominal success and simultaneously leave you more isolated than ever.

Perrotta's character's certainly incorporate aspects of those running in the 1992 election, with Tracy's cloud of sexual scandal a direct allegory to Clinton's wanton ways. However, a truly original character emerges in the proverbial third party candidate, Tammy, whose exacting appraisal of her environs/nature of suburbia seems far beyond her years.

Such a slim volume can be read in under two hours time. So read it for its allegorical features that continue to resonate today or simply read it for it's laugh out loud moments. Either way, this is one book that begs to be read and reveled in. ( )
  Casey_Marie | Apr 27, 2015 |
“The logistics of a high school election are no laughing matter. At the same time you’re educating your students about democracy, you’re working to safeguard the process against fraud. It’s sad but true: given half a chance, most kids will cheat to win. They’re a lot like adults in this respect” – Mr. M

I’ve never seen the movie adaptation of Election, but I understand that a lot of its cult followers can be likened to Rushmore enthusiasts. Winwood High School is an anonymous high school, in a generic small town, where most people seem to be interested in high school sports and getting into a good college, rather than the upcoming presidential election.

The graduating class of ’93 is in the midst of its own class president election, and little does anyone realize that it will set into motion a series of events that will change the lives of quite a few people, especially Mr. M’s. Perrotta’s use of alternating points of view is one of his best writing gifts. In Election, he does a wonderful job of isolating the labels: the jock, the outcast, most likely to succeed, adulterer, etc. The reader is able to glimpse events through each individual’s sober, unreliable vantage point. However, it’s the clarity of assessment from others’ points of view of these same characters that really bring to light what makes each of them do what they do. It’s ingenious!

“It was something that had never occurred to me before: she was unhappy. On stage that afternoon, this simple fact struck me with the unmistakable force of truth. Tracy Flick needed someone to cheer her up. So did Lisa, now that I thought about it; so did Tammy and my mother and my father. Maybe that’s what we look for in the people we love, the spark of unhappiness we think we know how to extinguish…” – Paul Warren, Class of ’93 Presidential Candidate

I really enjoyed this book. Perrotta is dark humor and irony at its best, but after consideration, I came to realize that it’s a deceptively “light read.” There’s a message in here for everyone. For myself? I remember feeling a lot like Mr.M at the onset of the novel in the past, having a restlessness about life, where it was headed, and if this is what I was meant to be doing…forever! Although I’m happy now, I can’t help but look back and think that I was doing something meaningful with my life, and at least I was making a difference to some people, if even on a small scale. Why are we so quick to discredit our efforts? Ah, ’tis imperfection, I guess.

“That should have been a happy time in my life. I had a good job, an apparently solid marriage, and an easy, unthinking faith in my own good judgment and moral integrity. Right now, that seems like more than enough to ask for.” ( )
  dreamydress48 | Feb 19, 2015 |
I started reading this book at 11 and finished it by six the same day. Amazing. It's hard for me to describe what I liked so much about it. Yeah, there are a the typical high school stereotypes, but they are treated in such a way that's refreshing and reminds me why I'm glad to be out of high school. I really want to read some more of Tom Perrottta's books since I enjoyed this one so much. ( )
  cocoannie | Aug 19, 2013 |
I am a nearly-rabid fan of the movie version of Tom Perrotta's "Election", and it recently occurred to me that I had never read the book! Even though I'm also a big fan of Tom Perrotta's other books! Good Lord, what was I thinking? To Amazon, stat!

I'm almost certainly predisposed to give this book 5 stars given my intense love for the film, so take me with a grain of salt. But this nifty little story, with its staccato jumps from character to character as the voice of narration, as well as Perrotta's talent for creating voices the reader practically hears out loud, stands on its own two feet, apart from my movie-love.

In very different ways, the book is superior to the film, and vice versa. The book is quietly steeped in a compassion that, for me, I did not fully realize until I finished it. It was a bit like watching a flower planted in a very odd place bloom in front of you. As I began the book and noted some of the significant character differences from the movie I knew too well, I feared the book would inevitably be a let-down. I didn't think Perrotta would have the necessary space to make me warm to the substantial changes in his brief, original story. But he did.

I loved it in a very different way than the movie, and that is a very, very big compliment, coming from yours truly. ( )
  MichelleMF | Apr 17, 2013 |
I preferred the movie, really. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425167283, Paperback)

Tom Perrotta is a remarkably astute observer and writer of the adolescent experience. His Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies is a delightful collection of coming-of-age stories, which give insight into the joys and agonies of adolescence. In Perrotta's first full-length novel The Wishbones, a 31-year-old musician can't quite cope with the responsibilities of adulthood and instead lives an extended adolescence. Perrotta's much-anticipated second novel Election again successfully ventures into the adolescent psyche.

The book is set in a New Jersey high school amidst a hotbed of political activity: students are voting for their school president. Perrotta's cast of characters are exaggerated but convincing. They convey adolescence as it often is--sometimes painful and frequently awkward. Tracy is the popular girl, smart and pretty, but she isn't quite as perfect as her classmates assume. A sordid affair with a teacher lurks in the shadows. Paul is the jovial football jock, but his parent's divorce has left him hurt and vulnerable. Then there is Paul's younger and geekier sister Tammy, the tormented underdog struggling with her sexuality. Plot develops through a series of mini-chapters, narrated by the main protagonists. There are also frequent interjections from Mr. M, the all-around good teacher every kid loves--the kind of teacher Hollywood loves to enshrine in sentimental flicks. A genuine crescendo of excitement and anticipation consumes the reader, as we eagerly await who has won the election. This is a novel of teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and is probably best appreciated by grownups with enough perspective on their own adolescent experiences to be able to take the bitter with the sweet.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A high-school presidential election, contested by a hunky football hero and a sex bomb. The novel describes the intrigues of the students and the teachers on behalf of the candidates. By the author of The Wishbones.

(summary from another edition)

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