Cover of The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life, with a group of teenagers standing in profile next to a car

About the Book

Title: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life
Published: 2012
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Nailed It!
Bonus Factors: Scavenger Hunt, The Summer Before College
Relationship Status: Scav Teammates 4 Life

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

Not only does this cover totally reflect the storyline, with the team and the car at the top and the collage of scavenger hunt items in the “Best Night” letters, but it also looks HELLA COOL. It’s eye-catching in a good way, unlike the trainwrecks we usually see. And it can totally pass for an “adult” book! This cover has ALL OF THE WINS.

The Deal:

One of my fondest memories from college was the night I took a bunch of freshmen out on a scavenger hunt during orientation. I was their advisor, and consequently, I was supposed to be their role model and mentor. Obviously, that meant teaching them the importance of going to EXTREME measures in order to win the hunt. We raced around the city, gathering random items like garden topiaries and giant sunglasses, but when I saw a random rave kid, wearing hugeass pants and standing on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer, I knew exactly what we needed to do. So we picked him up and took him to campus, where he earned us a billion special points and became a campus celebrity (well, for one night). Cid– yes, that was his name, pronounced like “Kid,” and yes, he spelled it with a “c”– I don’t know where you are or if your brain is still functioning after all of the E you took, but I want to thank you for helping us win the scavenger hunt that night. And also for not, like, turning out to be a psychopath and stabbing all of us in the dorm.

I’m telling you all of this so that you understand why I think scavenger hunts are a BIG FREAKING DEAL. In fact, the world needs more of them. OOOOoo let’s have an FYA scavenger hunt! Whoever brings in John Green gets a trillion points! I’ll start working on the list now.

ANYWAY! The book! In case you thought I was just pointlessly rambling, this book IS about a scavenger hunt. A super awesome, totally ridiculous scavenger hunt. And like me, our heroine Mary understands that winning the hunt is vital. It’s the week before graduation, and the Oyster Point High Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt is Mary’s last chance to prove to her fellow classmates, particularly the douchebags led by Captain Asshole Jake Barbone, that she’s not just a lame goody goody. Even better, it’s her friend and teammate Dez’s opportunity to get revenge on all of the people who tortured him for being gay. Mary’s team, which also includes her two best friends, Patrick and Winter, is in it to win it, but as the hours pass, they uncover more than just the items on the list. Mary’s long-time crush, Carson, may like someone else, while Patrick may be nursing his own crush on Mary. In a night filled with wild escapades, Mary’s hopes of victory begin to unravel, just as she begins to understand what it really means to win.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

It’s not that I didn’t like Mary at first. I did! I just… didn’t necessarily want to be besties with her. Maybe it’s because she was super anal and judgey and bossy and totally reminded me of someone. Hmm, who was it? Oh, ME! She reminded me of high school ME! Which is not a reminder I appreciate. BUT as the book went on, I grew to understand where Mary was coming from. And really, she’s a great gal when she loses that chip on her shoulder. She’s smart and determined, and she truly does love her friends. I admired her for attempting to sort through her feelings and reflect on who she is and who she wants to be. But her best quality, in my opinion, is the way she takes the time to step back and cherish the moment. Keep making those memories, girl, but also, start writing that shizz down so you don’t forget when you’re a thirtysomething with a slight drinking problem. Trust me.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

The romance in this book is mostly of the unrequited kind, so it’s awkward and painful and very true to life. I felt bad for Patrick, pining away for his best friend, but I also totally empathized with Mary. Dealing with the Friend Zone is beyond sucky, and while Patrick was adorable, I couldn’t blame Mary for not feeling any sparks for him. I can’t say the same for Carson, who seemed like a total dick from the get-go. Seriously, Mary, what did you ever see in him?!! So yeah, this book doesn’t cover main swoon territory (although there’s a nice hint of something in Mary’s future), but honestly, I was too busy being SUPER STRESSED/EXCITED (Exstressed? Stressited?) to care.

Talky Talk: Nailed It!

Tara Altebrando has got it GOIN’ ON. She expertly weaves authentic teen dialogue and real emotion into a fast-paced adventure that I couldn’t put down. Honestly, I would’ve been satisfied with just a fun story about a scavenger hunt, but Altebrando went for the gold and infused her characters with compelling motivations. Their voices are unique enough to stand out amidst the dizzying action, and Mary’s angst, frustration and elation give the story a touching amount of heart.

Bonus Factor: Scavenger Hunt

Woman pointing to map

I’m always a fan of something that makes people act like idiots, but scavenger hunts also require a level of intelligence, so you need to have brains but lack shame. The hunt in this book definitely encourages both, and the list itself is dizzying. In fact, there’s two lists, and they include everything from the mundane (a sock) to the scandalous (skinny dipping) to the challenging (a series of puzzles that I most certainly did not figure out before the characters did). Basically, it was AWESOME, and if scavenger hunts become the new dystopia, I wouldn’t complain.

Bonus Factor: The Summer Before College

Amanda and Preston, about to kiss at the end of Can't Hardly Wait

Technically, this story takes place the week before Mary’s graduation, but she’s already entered that liminal time between high school and college. It’s rare for a novel to explore that space, and I relished Mary’s high school nostalgia as well as her excited uncertainty about the open horizon of college.

Relationship Status: Scav Teammates 4 Life

Book, you inspire me with your cleverness, your thoughtfulness and your sense of adventure. I am honored to be on your scavenger hunt team, and I promise, I won’t let you down. I would steal lawn ornaments for you; I’d embarrass myself in public for you; I would even go to the ends of the earth if that was on our hunt list, because I think you’re awesome, and I want to make you proud. The only thing I ask is that we stop occasionally for some adult beverages, because a girl’s got to keep her strength up.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the Penguin Young Readers Group.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). 

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.