Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: The Duke of Bannerman Prep - Katie A. Nelson

The Duke of Bannerman Prep
Katie A Nelson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tanner wants out: out of his house, his situation, his circumstances. He wants to see how the other half lives. He finally gets his chance, when he is awarded a debate scholarship to the posh Bannerman Prep School. It is evident, that Tanner is out of his depth as soon as he steps foot on school grounds, and is drawn into this upper crust world. But, will he be able to afford the price tag it comes with?

First and foremost, this is a Great Gatsby retelling, and I thought Nelson's approach was quite fresh and entertaining. The essence of the original story was obvious, but the story was still it's own. The tale of a boy from modest means, who is seeking his fortune, and is drawn into the vortex of this mysterious, but gracious stranger is all there, but now we also have the modern twists, the pressures of high school, and debate.

After reading this book, I am quite upset that my high school did not have a debate, because that world sounds amazing. If Neslon's portrayal of high school debate is even close to reality, count me in. Each part of the book, where debate took center stage, I was able to feel the stress, the pressure, the exhilaration, and the defeat as the characters practiced, prepared, and competed. I was genuinely enthralled by it all.
"I'd seen what was possible, and I wanted it. I wanted it more."
I really loved Tanner. There were so many sides to him: he was a dutiful son, a protective brother and cousin, but also a normal teen boy. Tanner came to Bannerman for all the right reasons: he knew it was his only way out of Hollister and a minimum wage job. He went to Bannerman with the intention of winning the state championship and securing a scholarship, but he sort of lost his way at one point. Being out of his home, he escaped that pressure cooker for a new one. It's no wonder he could not resist the gravitational attraction to The Duke, and was drawn into his orbit. He made a bad choice, which sort of set off a chain reaction of poor choices, and snowballed into disaster, deception, and betrayal. But he was still there. The real Tanner was still present, and his mea cupla and bid for redemption was the stuff that kept me believing in him, and cheering him on.
"But he knew me. Knew exactly what I needed. And he made sure I got it."
The Duke was also written quite well. He was everything we expect in our Gatsby. Gracious, but standoffish, with an air of mystery. I loved finding the breadcrumbs, and trying to piece together who The Duke really was. I thrived on the tension as it all started to unravel, and I was a little on edge waiting to see what the fallout would be.
"You don't know anything about him. You know what he wants you to know."
And yes, there is a little romance in there too. I wanted this for Tanner. I needed this for him. The kid had it tough, and I am glad Nelson gave him a sweet romance, with an independently minded young woman, who supported him, lifted him up, and was compassionate. I was sailing on this ship, even if it was only a minor part of the story.

 Overall: A great retelling, which encapsulated the essence of the original, while still coming across as new and unique.

**I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

Do you like debates?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'm not sure I've ever come across a YA Gatsby retelling! What a great concept - and it sounds like it was executed really well. I also like the sound of Tanner. He sounds so realistic and believable. (Btw, I love the way you insert quotes within your reviews!)

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    1. Tanner was so complex. He has a brother with multiple disabilities, and there are many beautiful moments shared between them. Watching him lose the best parts of himself was tough, because I found him sort of special. Thank you. I love quotes, and wanted them to stand out more. There are tons of code snippets out there to insert into your style sheet. I modified this one a little for color palette and whatnot, and was really happy with the results.

    2. I would love to be able to do something similar but as soon as you mentioned code snippets and style sheets... you might as well have been talking Martian. LOL My talents do not extend to tinkering with coding and I am *so* intimidated by it.

    3. I am going to try to find the article, because it was really easy to do with blogger (I think you have a blogger site). If I succeed, I will send it to you.

    4. Thanks Sam! Maybe if I had step by step instructions I wouldn't be as scared to give it a try. LOL

  2. Glad this was good! It sounds like a good retelling and I love the sound of the debate club angle. Nice cover too.

    1. I knew very little about debate and loved learning about it. It was quite intense actually, and the amount of prep work they do is incredible.

  3. I had to put this one on my TBR! Thanks for the review.

  4. I don't know that I have seen a Gatsby retelling before. Adult me would love a debate team...teenage me not so much. This does sound like a great story.

    1. I couldn't imagine doing that much work for an activity in high school. It sounds really intense.