cover image The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

Tara Altebrando. Dutton, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-42326-3

A week before graduation, seniors at Oyster Point High compete in an unauthorized scavenger hunt with the prize being custodianship of a garden yeti that they keep for a year. Mary May Gilhooley is intent on breaking out of her good-girl shackles to win, but she has to contend with friction among her teammates, self-dubbed “the Also-Rans”: Harvard-bound Patrick, who is head over heels in (unrequited) love with Mary; mysteriously sullen best friend Winter; and barely closeted Dez, who has been picked on for years by a rival team. The objects in the hunt include many straightforward items (one “al dente” strand of spaghetti, a bar of hotel soap) and others that must be puzzled out (“Shave Bob’s balls” “Shuck a Mary on the half shell”). It’s a terrific premise, and Altebrando (Dreamland Social Club) successfully sustains a sense of tension and excitement throughout. In the final pages, Mary swings a bit unbelievably between acquiescent daughter and win-at-all-costs team leader, but that doesn’t diminish the book’s smart combination of end-of-high-school poignancy and fun. Ages 14–up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger Agency. (July)