Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review: Neil R. Selden The Great Lakeside High Experiment

This book is so old I can't even find a cover photo of it! Its a young adult novel I should have read about 20 years ago, but didn't. Or at least I think I didn't because nothing about the book was familiar to me.

Here's the jist of it and why I was totally unimpressed and yet compelled to finish it.

The popular crowd consisting of Jen, Larry, Dolph and Wayne come up with an idea to make senior year more exciting. The idea: take a plain girl and make her glamorous and through their friendship popular. The whole My Fair Lady/Pygmalion thing.

Not a bad thing, except Maude, the guinea pig in the experiment ends up being nice and falling for Jen's guy, Larry.

Here's where I have issues with the story. Its told from both Maude and Jen's point of view. Jen is not a nasty popular bitch out to hurt Maude, but the writer feels the need to cause Jen some pain in the end, as some sort of payback for her being "The Popular" one to start with. To tell what caused that would give away the plot and the book may be worth reading for some tweens and lovers of young adult fiction.

I felt that the ending came about too quickly and the friends that were Jen's originally lacked substance then and her boyfriend who was falling for Maude was just as bad, even with some of the plot twists Selden wrote to make him likable. For me they didn't make any more or less likable, they just made him strange.

As for the girls, I felt sorry for both Maude and Jen. They each had family problems to deal with and they both felt constricted by their life. The ending was supposedly happy with all fences mended, but it left me feeling like there was so much more to be resolved, especially with Jen.

I'd give this book to a 12-14 year old, but I think older teens would feel like I do, that it left a lot to be desired.


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