First published: 1st August 2009
By: Harry N. Abrams
Homer’s Iliad, the classic tale of love and revenge, is shrewdly retold for teens in Troy High.
Narrated by Cassie, a shy outsider who fears that an epic high school rivalry is about to go up in flames, the story follows the Trojans and Spartans as they declare war on the football field. After the beautiful Elena - who used to be the captain of the Spartan cheerleaders - transfers to Troy High and falls madly in love with Cassie’s brother Perry, the Spartans vow that the annual homecoming game will never be forgotten.
The Trojans and Spartans pull wicked pranks on each other as homecoming approaches. And the Spartans’ wildcard football star, Ackley, promises to take down the Trojans’ offensive line. But the stakes are raised when Cassie is forced to choose between the boy she loves (a Spartan) and loyalty to her family and school. Troy High will seduce readers with its incendiary cast of mythic proportions.
I've got a pretty good idea of what I like, so, barring a few disappointments, I don't usually read books I hate. The only thing that trips me up is that I am irresistibly attracted to books that sound silly and cheesy - like about cheerleaders who also spy for the government or something - in the secret hope that they will be an awesome guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, Troy High was not a pleasure, but a chore and there was nothing that made it worth reading to me.
The writing is basic and flat. Sure, it's aimed at the younger end of the YA crowd, but middle grade books can have delightful prose. The paragraphs in Troy High are each about 2 sentences long - zero description, nothing to add depth to the characters. As a result, the characters are paper thin; the reader doesn't learn much more about them than their names, which school they belong to and some basic personality type that can be summed up in one word: Cassie - shy. Elena - ditz. Perry - jerk. You can't care about characters when there's nothing to them.
A high school version of The Iliad sounded fun, but this is such a dull and uninspired way of doing it. The actual war of The Iliad becomes a prank war between rival high schools - there's potential in that idea, but the pranks are just...lame. Like stuff you'd see on Saved by the Bell - and not even Saved by the Bell with Zack and Slater, but Saved by the Bell: The New Class with Scott and Weasel. To pull this kind of story off, I really feel like you have to go big or go home, you know? Make it crazy, spirited, funny fun. I think there was one prank in Troy High that maybe raised a half smile out of me, but that was it.
There was one thing I liked: how the author translated the original Homeric names to modern day ones. Agamemnon becomes Greg Memnon, Hector becomes Hunter, Menelaus becomes Lucas, etc. I thought that was cute. But it was hardly enough to save the book and I admit, I started skimming towards the end; I was so eager to be done with Troy High.
I was hoping for some nice brain candy, but alas, Troy High was a fail for me; boring and pointless and a waste of my precious reading time.
Rating: 1 star