When Bannerman Prep invites Tanner McKay to leave his public school and join their world-class debate team, he sees it as his big chance to catch the eyes of Stanford recruiters and to set himself on the path to success. But when the debate teacher partners Tanner with “The Duke,” that clear-cut path no longer seems quite so straight and narrow.
The Duke is untouchable: He’s a straight-A student who rarely cracks a book; he’s adept at pulling strings and calling in favors; and he’s a notorious host of elaborate parties in the city. But the Duke isn’t all he seems, and soon his carefully crafted identity begins to unravel.
Katie A. Nelson’s debut novel, a contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, captures the glitz, glamour and mysterious emptiness of its predecessor with very few of the cheap winks and nudges so prevalent in modernizations. Though Nelson’s characters feel, at times, like incomplete renderings, she deftly recreates the high-stakes environment of an elite prep school as well as the fierce competition for social status that will feel familiar to any young reader.
The high-pressure world of Bannerman Prep, the intrigue of Tanner and the Duke’s strange friendship and the lavish social scene all harken back to Fitzgerald’s classic but stand on their own in this compelling new novel.