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Elliot Allagashby Simon Rich
Synopses & Reviews
Simon Rich dazzled readers with his absurdist sense of humor in his hilarious collections Ant Farm and Free-Range Chickens. Now comes Rich's rollicking debut novel, which explores the strangest, most twisted, and comically fraught terrain of them all: high school.
Seymour Herson is the least popular student at Glendale, a private school in Manhattan. He's painfully shy, physically inept, and his new nick-name, "Chunk Style," is in danger of entering common usage. But Seymour's solitary existence comes to a swift end when he meets the new transfer student: Elliot Allagash, evil heir of America's largest fortune.
Elliot's rampant delinquency has already gotten him expelled from dozens of prep schools around the country. But despite his best efforts, he can't get himself thrown out of Glendale; his father has simply donated too much money. Bitter and bored, Elliot decides to amuse himself by taking up a challenging and expensive new hobby: transforming Seymour into the most popular student in the school.
An unlikely friendship develops between the two loners as Elliot introduces Seymour to new concepts, like power, sabotage, and vengeance. With Elliot as his diabolical strategist and investor, Seymour scores a spot on the basketball team, becomes class president, and ruthlessly destroys his enemies. Yet despite the glow of newfound popularity, Seymour feels increasingly uneasy with Elliot's wily designs. For an Allagash victory is dishonorable at its best, and ruinous at its worst.
Cunningly playful and wickedly funny, Elliot Allagash is a tale about all of the incredible things that money can buy, and the one or two things that it can't.
"Saturday Night Live writer Rich's first novel (after two humorous collections) is a hit and miss riff on Pygmalion in which genial high school loser Seymour gets a life-changing makeover after meeting Elliot, a fabulously wealthy malcontent who has transferred to Seymour's Manhattan private school. Elliot's lessons on the power of money and the fine art of popularity are given in exchange for chubby Seymour's agreement to do whatever Elliot tells him to do, and, sure enough, Seymour transforms from consummate outsider to a Harvard-bound, straight-A class president. But as the book constantly reminds readers, there are things money can't buy, even for the Allagash family, whose astronomical wealth comes, believe it or not, from an ancestor's invention of paper. Elliot 'knew the functions of all his father's companies... [but] never seemed to know what I was thinking or feeling,' opines Seymour, who grows increasingly complacent in Elliot's schemes and alienated from his dimensionless, doting parents. While Rich is undoubtedly funny and quick-witted, his novelistic chops are underdeveloped, and the narrative's inevitability and the lack of character development detract from the book's finer, funnier points." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An unfailingly funny and compulsively readable mix of sweet and sour that will leave readers hoping for another helping." Booklist
"Rich is always funny, and he nails the bogus solemnity of high-school social politics. A high-school romp that John Hughes should be so lucky to direct." Kirkus Reviews
"[The] soft landing [of the ending] is mandatory, perhaps, and there are some deft emotional grace notes to enjoy. Yet the inevitable warm fuzziness doesn't terribly undercut all the nasty pleasures previously provided, nor diminish expectations for the next bit of mischief." Larry Doyle, The New York Times
"I am a big fan of Simon Rich's first two books, which were wonderful pu pu platters of absurdist comedy. And now comes his first novel, which is one of the funniest books about high schoolers since The Catcher in the Rye. We all must pray that Simon Rich won't move to New Hampshire and become a recluse who spends his time reading Eastern philosophy. Because we need more books from this guy." A. J. Jacobs
"I found Simon Rich's first novel, about an evil teenage billionaire, to be suspenseful and hilarious. I am so glad I don't have to lie in this blurb like I usually do." Judd Apatow
"[A]nyone familiar with the grueling kabuki of college application, or disgusted with the preenings of wealth, will savor Elliot Allagash. It might not be a book for the ages, but it'll enliven a summer afternoon." The Chicago Sun-Times
"Rich has an adroit cartoonist's touch....Among Elliot's crowning achievements is Seymour's wholly fictitious college application, which gets him into Harvard. It's also one of Rich's better conceits — for which he now gets his ripped-from-the-headlines moment." Chicago Tribune
An unlikely friendship develops when the arrogant heir of America's largest fortune takes up a challenging (and expensive) new hobby: transforming chunk style eighth-grader Seymour into the most popular boy in school.
About the Author
Simon Rich has written for The New Yorker, GQ, Mad, The Harvard Lampoon and other magazines. He is the author of two humor collections, Free-Range Chickens and Ant Farm, which was a finalist for the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor. He lives in Brooklyn and writes for Saturday Night Live. He is twenty-five.
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